MS Dhoni’s captaincy challenge, Gurkeerat’s all-round potential and Aravind’s late chance

With less than 10 days to go for South Africa’s 72-day tour of India to begin, selectors on Sunday announced the squad for the Twenty20 and ODI series. With no major surprises in offing, the headlines were made by newcomers to the squad.
Here are three things that stood out from the squad announced for the Mandela-Gandhi series.
Gurkeerat Singh
The off-spinning, hard-hitting all rounder from Punjab has earned this call up on the back of eye-catching performances with the India A side. Despite the oddity of having been selected for just the ODI side and not Twenty20, Gurkeerat Singh will be itching to show how far he has come as an all-rounder since making his First class debut for Punjab in 2012 as a 21 year-old.
Gurkeerat’s 58-ball 65 batting first in Bengaluru against Bangladesh ‘A’, followed by his 5 for 29 in 7.3 overs, ensured India got a big win in the first unofficial ODI. Gurkeerat’s five-for, in fact, was his best List A effort.
In the tri-series involving Australia A and South Africa A in August, Gurkeerat again put in a sound all-round in the final against the Aussies, who were till then unbeatable on the tour. With India bowling first, Gurkeerat took 2 for 47 – including the wicket of Joe Burns, who was in fine form in the series. And with the Indian top order failing in a chase of 227, Gurkeerat played a match-winning, unbeaten 87 to give India ‘A’ the Tri-series win.
Gurkeerat’s records show that he is much more of a batsman than a bowler – having taken 10 List A wickets and four in Twenty20’s. But at 25, the Punjab all-rounder comes in at a time where he still has a long career ahead of him. With Ravindra Jadeja comfortably out of sight and hence out of mind for the selectors, Gurkeerat — who is also a brilliant fielder — has a golden chance to nail the spinning all-rounder that MS Dhoni has a proven affinity for.
Sreenath Aravind
Aravind’s is more of a peculiar inclusion to the Twenty20 side, with an opportunity to make his India debut at 31 years. He previously was selected for the ODI side for England’s visit in 2011, on the back of strong a strong IPL and domestic performance then.
He has since then continued to impress at the domestic level for the all-conquering Karnataka side – picking up an impressive 44 wickets in 11 matches in the last Ranji season. In IPL 2015, after a string of impressive performances, he came to the fore in the crucial eliminator against Royals with 2-20 in his four overs, when the leader of the pack Mitchell Starc was struggling with a niggle.
“I learnt [from Starc] how to develop myself as a bowler,” Aravind said after his call-up. “I have learnt how to overcome the batsman from Starc, what they are thinking, Plan A, Plan B, bowling over-the-wicket yorkers and how to attack the pads or wicket, so it’s been valuable.”
A left arm-medium pacer who is known for his movement off the seam more than pace, Aravind is in the mould of bowlers Dhoni has indicated his preference for in limited overs – control over sheer pace.
The selectors continue to stand by their new maxim – age is just a number if you want to play for India.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni
The past few months must have been odd for Dhoni with all the attention on the Virat Kohli-Ravi Shastri partnership. It was almost as if everyone had forgotten that Dhoni was still the captain in two out of three formats. So much so that there were murmurs of Kohli replacing Dhoni at the helm for the limited over versions too which turned out to be mere speculation.
Fact is, as Kohli and Co took limelight in Sri Lanka, Dhoni was out of spotlight and got a good three-month break to recharge his batteries after an extraordinary amount of cricket since the beginning of 2014.
It remains to be seen, however, on how India’s captain extraordinaire copes with the dressing room atmosphere where Kohli and Shastri will continue to be a big presence. After the mauling at the hands of Bangladesh, Dhoni would be looking to put things back on track as India begin their preparation for the big prize – the World T20 that begins in March 2016.