Rishabh Pant picked for first two ODIs, Virat Kohli back as captain

Wicketkeeper batsman Rishabh Pant will be in line to make his ODI debut after he was picked in the 14-man squad for the first two matches against West Indies. Virat Kohli was back to lead the side after he missed the Asia Cup, but frontline quick bowlers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah were rested.

Dinesh Karthik was left out of the squad to make way for Pant, and allrounders Kedar Jadhav and Hardik Pandya had not yet recovered from their injuries. While Pandya had injured his lower back in the Asia Cup match against Pakistan to be ruled out of the tournament, Jadhav won India the title with an injured hamstring. Jadhav will come back after the first two ODIs, and Pandya will be fit from the second week of November.

Fast bowler Mohammed Shami, who last played an ODI over a year ago, was added to the pace attack. He had played all five Tests in England and the first one against West Indies in Rajkot, after being hampered with injury issues in the first half of the year. He had played the IPL with some niggles and was later dropped for the one-off Test against Afghanistan after failing a fitness test at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru.

Fast bowlers Deepak Chahar and Siddarth Kaul, who played one match each in the Asia Cup, were left out while left-arm quick Khaleel Ahmed retained his place. Chahar and Kaul had been injury replacements for Pandya and Shardul Thakur in the Asia Cup. Thakur returned to the squad after recovering and playing a domestic one-day match for Mumbai against Punjab in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, taking 3 for 53 and scoring 30 off 14 balls in the match.

With 13 ODIs left for India until the World Cup next year, the chairman of selectors MSK Prasad was keen on testing India's fast-bowling bench strength.

"That's the reason why we have included Khaleel, Shardul [Thakur] and Shami in this squad now," he said. "Now we are looking at third and fourth seamers. That'll be among those people whom we are going to pick from now onwards, which also includes Umesh Yadav."


Dasgupta: Pant can slot in as a batsman in India side

Deep Dasgupta also says it is little unfortunate for Dinesh Karthik to be left out of the ODI side

Axar Patel had also injured himself during the Asia Cup but his place was lost because of Ravindra Jadeja's successful comeback. The spin attack was retained, with Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal completing the trio.

Karthik had played all six matches in the Asia Cup and scored 146 runs at an average of 48.66 but a strike rate of 71.21, only higher than MS Dhoni's (62.09) among Indian batsmen who batted at least twice in the tournament. Karthik got several starts in the tournament but could not convert them into bigger scores when India lacked solidity in the middle order. He batted mainly at No. 4, but did not make own the position India have been seeking to fill ahead of the 2019 World Cup.

"It's no brainer who is our No. 1 wicketkeeper," Prasad said. "In the search of second wicketkeeper, we have given opportunities to DK. Right now we're giving an opportunity to Rishabh Pant. And we can take a call at appropriate time about who is the best among the two."

Since returning to the ODI side after a three-year gap in July last year, Karthik has scored 350 runs in 13 innings at an average of 50 and strike rate of 71.57. In the same period, Dhoni has made 681 runs in 24 innings at an average of 42.56 and a marginally better strike rate of 73.14. In Pant, India have a chance to not only trial a new wicketkeeper in ODIs but also an explosive batsman in the middle order.

The search for a solid No. 4 continues though with Manish Pandey and Ambati Rayudu likely to get chances to stake their claim during the West Indies series. Since the end of the 2015 World Cup, India have tried 11 players at this position but Prasad said "we are very close" to finalising India's best options in the middle order. "It's been in the debate for some time and we have really closed in on couple of names."

The ODI series against West Indies begins on October 21 in Guwahati before moving to Visakhapatnam on October 24. The last three ODIs are scheduled to be played in Pune, Mumbai and Thiruvananthapuram.