Kolkata:Young Tamil Nadu off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin was on Tuesday rewarded for his consistent performance in domestic cricket with a berth in India's 15-member ODI squad for the first two matches against South Africa later this month.
The 23-year-old Ashwin, who is also a useful batsman lower down the order, was the only new face in the squad which will miss the services of prolific opener Gautam Gambhir because of a groin injury.
Lanky Baroda all-rounder Yusuf Pathan, who hit a double century in West Zone's record run chase in Duleep Trophy final, and Mumbai all-rounder Abhishek Nayar forced their way back into the squad announced by BCCI secretary N Srinivasan after a selection committee meeting here.
Seasoned off-spinner Harbhajan Singh has made himself unavailable to attend his sister's wedding while dashing batsman Yuvraj Singh was also not considered as he has not recovered from a wrist injury.
"Harbhajan Singh has declared himself not available for the first two ODIs due to personal reasons. Gautam Gambhir is not available for the ODI series due to groin injury," a BCCI release said.
The selection of Ashwin was very much on the cards after Harbhajan had made himself unavailable. The Tamil Nadu spinner has so far captured 103 wickets in 28 first class matches for an average of 29.43.
As a batsman, Ashwin has scored two centuries and six half-centuries in his aggregate of 1085 runs which explains his utility in the shorter format of the game.
Left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha, who featured in India's current Test squad, was not picked in the squad to be captained by Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Saurashtra all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja, who has been banned for one year from playing in the Indian Premier League, has been retained in the team along with Uttar Pradesh paceman Sudeep Tyagi.
Another Uttar Pradesh seamer Pravin Kumar has also been recalled into the team which has Dinesh Karthik as the second wicket-keeper.
Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag are the two openers while Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina and Karthik are the middle order batsmen along with Dhoni.
Zaheer Khan will spearhead the pace attack which also includes Delhi pacer Ashish Nehra, Tyagi and Pravin Kumar.
Ishant Sharma, who has been inconsistent in recent time, has not found a place in the squad for the first two matches.
The first ODI will be played in Jaipur on February 21 while Gwalior will host the second match on February 24. The three-match series will end in Ahmedabad on February 27.
Squad: MS Dhoni (Captain), Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Virat Kohli, Dinesh Karthik, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Sudeep Tyagi, Praveen Kumar, Abhishek Nayar, Yusuf Pathan, Amit Mishra.