Chennai:The exclusion of middle-order batsman Rohit Sharma was the surprise in India's 15-man World Cup squad announced in Chennai. The other bone of contention had been the second specialist spinner's slot, and the selectors have picked both offspinner R Ashwin and legspinner Piyush Chawla, ahead of left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha. Most of the other names in the squad were along expected lines.
India's major concern ahead of the team selection was the injuries to four first-choice players - Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and quick bowler Praveen Kumar - but the selectors picked all four, confident that they will be fit in time for the tournament which starts on February 19.
India's bowling attack for the World Cup will be significantly different from their standard Test attack, with only Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh being named. The fast bowling pair of Sreesanth and Ishant Sharma, and Ojha are all excluded while Munaf Patel, who helped India to a series-levelling victory over South Africa on Saturday, has found a place as the fourth seamer.
The selectors have gone in for a well-stocked slow bowling department, expecting traditional subcontinent tracks for the World Cup. Besides Harbhajan, there are two specialists in Ashwin and Chawla, an allrounder in Yusuf Pathan besides the part-time offerings of Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina and Virender Sehwag.
Chawla was also something of a surprise pick, though he is part of the one-day squad currently touring South Africa. He hasn't played any one-dayers for India since the Asia Cup in July 2008, and none of his 21 ODIs have been at home.
The squad also has only seven specialist batsmen, including MS Dhoni, which might be a worry in case of injuries. India haven't played their full-strength one-day side since the New Zealand tour in early 2009. There is no reserve keeper in the squad either, but that shouldn't be a concern as they can have one travel with them in case he is needed at short notice.
Kris Srikkanth, chairman of the national selection committee, was confident India could end their 28-year wait for a one-day World Cup. "This particular Indian team is doing brilliantly for the past couple of years in both Test and ODI cricket. They are playing consistently not only in India but outside," he told reporters after the team was announced. "We are confident this team will do well and win the World Cup for us in front of the home crowd."
He also defended the large spin contingent in the squad. "Don't forget that you are playing in India. The spinners probably play a very major role on the turning wickets. I am confident that the kind of balance we have, the kind of batting line-up we have, this team led by Dhoni will do the job for us."
Squad: MS Dhoni (captain), Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli, Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Praveen Kumar, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Munaf Patel, Piyush Chawla, R Ashwin.