India vs South Africa, ODIs: Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Shikhar Dhawan return; Shubman Gill included, Kedar Jadhav left out


 Bruised and battered in New Zealand, India’s ODI squad on Sunday got a major boost as a fit-again Hardik Pandya returned for the three-match series against South Africa, having successfully recuperated from a back surgery.

Along with Pandya, opener Shikhar Dhawan and seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar will also add depth to the 15-member squad, selected under the chairmanship of Sunil Joshi.

However, it could be curtains for veteran Kedar Jadhav as Shubman Gill’s return in the white-ball fold is a good enough indicator.

Vice-captain Rohit Sharma is yet to fully recuperate from his calf muscle injury and is expected to return to action during the Indian Premier League later this month. Thus, Prithvi Shaw retained his place in the ODI squad, while Mayank Agarwal, after a dismal New Zealand tour, had to make way for Dhawan.

The Mumbai duo of Shardul Thakur and Shivam Dube paid for their shoddy showing in New Zealand as Pandya and Bhuvneshwar rightfully got their places back.

Dhawan had dislocated his shoulder during the final ODI against Australia at home and missed the New Zealand series.

Bhuvneshwar, on the other hand, had a sports hernia surgery but has successfully completed his rehabilitation at the National Cricket Academy.

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But the biggest news was Hardik’s comeback, which, though, was on predictable lines.

Pandya’s last ODI was against New Zealand in the World Cup semi-final in Manchester and the last international game was a T20 against the Proteas in Bengaluru in September.

His absence affected the balance of the ODI side as Dube’s underwhelming show in the 14 chances he got showed that he is still not cut out for international cricket.

Pandya’s performances at the DY Patil Corporate Cup was not about the 150 odd he scored or the wickets he took but was about how fit he looked out there in the middle.

At the same time, the soon-to-be-35 Jadhav, who has literally stopped bowling in ODIs and is also not doing well batting at the No 6 slot, has been finally dropped from the side.

With the next 50-over World Cup in 2023 when Jadhav will be 38, it is highly unlikely that he will add to his 73 ODIs.

Shardul, who did improve as a batsman, leaked runs during the T20s as well as ODIs. Bhuvneshwar’s experience as a swing and seam bowler was sorely missed in New Zealand conditions. With Mohammed Shami rested for this series, Bhuvneshwar’s presence will also be a bit of respite for Jasprit Bumrah, who himself is going through a rough patch.

The three ODIs will be played in Dharamsala (March 12), Lucknow (March 15) and Kolkata (March 18).

India’s ODI squad: Shikhar Dhawan, Prithvi Shaw, Virat Kohli (C), KL Rahul, Manish Pandey, Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Navdeep Saini, Kuldeep Yadav, Shubman Gill.