India’s ace offspinner R Ashwin was the headline inclusion in spin-heavy squad for the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021 to be led by Virat Kohli.

Ashwin was on Wednesday included in India’s 15-member squad for the T20 World Cup alongside Ishan Kishan, Axar Patel and Varun Chakaravarthy. The 34-year-old Ashwin last played white-ball cricket for India in 2017. Kishan and Varun have been rewarded for their consistent performance in the IPL and the few opportunities they got with the Indian team.

Also making the squad was Suryakumar Yadav, the 30-year-old Mumbai batsman who has been making a name for himself for his power-hitting.

The T20 World Cup starts October 17 in the UAE and Oman.

Former India captain MS Dhoni will also be with the squad in the role of a mentor, BCCI secretary Jay Shah announced.

Squad: Virat Kohli (captain), Rohit Sharma (vc), KL Rahul, Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ishan Kishan (wk), Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Rahul Chahar, Ravichandran Ashwin, Axar Patel, Varun Chakravarthy, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami.

Standby players: Shreyas Iyer, Shardul Thakur, Deepak Chahar.

The 34-year-old Ashwin last played white-ball cricket for India in 2017 and has been missing in action from white-ball international cricket following the Champions Trophy. However, he kept performing in the IPL besides leading India’s spin attack in Test cricket.

Rahul Chahar has been preferred over Chahal who was a certainty in India’s limited over squads until now. Dhawan has been overlooked with KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma and Kishan all capable of opening, along with the option of Kohli.

The seventh edition of the tournament comprises 16 teams and is being hosted by India in the United Arab Emirates and Oman.

The highly anticipated match between former champions India and Pakistan will take place on 24 October at the Dubai International Stadium, in what will be the first match for both the teams.

India, champions in the inaugural edition played in South Africa in 2007 and finalists in 2014, will also have Afghanistan, New Zealand and two qualifiers from Round 1 to contend with in Group 2 while Group 1 comprises England, Australia, South Africa, the West Indies and two qualifiers from Round 1.

Sri Lanka, champions in 2014, Bangladesh, Ireland, Namibia, Netherlands Oman, PNG and Scotland, feature in Round 1 of the 16-team tournament

While the BCCI is the official host of the tournament, the tournament was moved out of India. The venues for the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021 are Dubai International Stadium, the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, the Sharjah Stadium, and the Oman Cricket Academy Ground.

The BCCI was expected to announce either an 18 or 20 member squad as the ICC will allow a squad strength of 30, instead of 23 in earlier editions, amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The number is inclusive of the support staff. Any team can have more than 30-member squads but the extra cost is supposed to be borne by the country’s cricket board, PTI had reported.

Dhoni, 40, who retired from international cricket last year, is India’s most successful captain having won the World Cup, the inaugural T20 World Cup and the Champions Trophy.

BCCI secretary Jay Shah said current captain Virat Kohli supported the move to have Dhoni with the side for the tournament in the United Arab Emirates and Oman.

“I spoke to him when I was in Dubai and he agreed to mentor the team,” Shah said when announcing the World Cup squad. “I spoke to the captain, the vice captain and coach Ravi Shastri and we came to this conclusion.”

The groups:

Round 1

Group A: Sri Lanka, Ireland, the Netherlands and Namibia
Group B: Bangladesh, Scotland, Papua New Guinea and Oman

Super 12s

Group 1: England, Australia, South Africa, West Indies, A1 and B2.
Group 2: India, Pakistan, New Zealand, Afghanistan, A2 and B1.

India's Group 2 fixtures at T20WC 2021

Date Match Venue
24th October IND vs PAK Dubai
31st October IND vs NZ Dubai
3rd November IND vs AFG Abu Dhabi
5th November IND vs B1 Dubai
8th November IND vs A2 Dubai