Rohit Sharma will not be available for the One Day International series in South Africa as he is yet to recover from his injury, with KL Rahul named as captain and Jasprit Bumrah his deputy. The chairman of selectors Chetan Sharma announced the 18-member squad on Friday.

“Rohit is not fit, he is in rehab. He is building on his fitness. Most importantly, we never wanted to take a chance with him if he is not 100% fit,” Sharma said in a press conference.

“We are looking at KL Rahul as a three-format player, and he has got good experience of captaincy. He has proved his leadership qualities. That is what all selectors think. When Rohit is not fit, we thought KL is the best one to handle the side. We have good confidence in him, and we are grooming him.”

Offspiner R Ashwin also made his way back to the ODI team after 2017 Champions Trophy. Mohammed Shami has been rested. Axar Patel and Ravindra Jadeja are still not fit and weren’t considered for selection. Also making a comeback was Washington Sundar.

With Hardik Pandya still absent, Venkatesh Iyer gets the nod as the allrounder. Shubman Gill, Prithvi Shaw are a couple of names missing from the squad while Ruturaj Gaikwad could be in line for his ODI debut.

Gaikwad and Venkatesh Iyer were both in sensational form in the recently concluded Vijay Hazare Trophy. Shikhar Dhawan received a call up despite struggling for runs in Delhi’s underwhelming campaign, not scoring 20-plus in the five innings he batted.

India’s 18-member squad for ODI series vs South Africa: KL Rahul (C), Shikhar Dhawan, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, Suryakumar Yadav, Venkatesh Iyer, Rishabh Pant, Ishan Kishan, R Ashwin, Yuzvendra Chahal, Washington Sundar, Jasprit Bumrah (VC), Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Deepak Chahar, Prasidh Krishna, Shardul Thakur, Md. Siraj

Chetan Sharma also said that the names of Ravi Bishnoi, Rishi Dhawan, Shahrukh Khan, Harshal Patel and Avesh Khan were discussed based on their good performances in domestic season, and with the volume of cricket to be played, these are the names that could find their way in soon. He also clarified that the primary focus at the moment is the T20 World Cup in 2022.

Rohit had earlier been ruled of the three Tests in South Africa due to a hamstring injury he suffered while training, the country’s cricket board had said. In the original announcement, Rohit, who has replaced Virat Kohli as the national limited-overs skipper, was earlier named vice-captain of the Test squad that is currently leading 1-0 in the three-match series.

Rohit was named new ODI skipper as he completed the white-ball captaincy takeover from Kohli who stood down from the T20 job before the recent World Cup and then removed from the 50-over format leadership.

The Mumbaikar has been plagued with hamstring troubles in recent times and the chief selector was asked if that is a concern. “That is why we want him to work on his fitness now, work on his muscles. See, nobody gets injured on purpose. There is a lot of cricket being played. This is precisely why we didn’t send him to South Africa for three matches because we want him to go back to 100% fitness because there are World Cups and important events coming. We had a good chat with Rohit. That is the reason why he is not going to South Africa,” Chetan Sharma said.

India will play South Africa in three ODI matches starting January 19. It was earlier decided that India will play just three ODIs and three Tests against the Proteas on this tour and the four scheduled T20 Matches will be rescheduled in the new year, as part of the joint MoU.

India last played ODIs against Sri Lanka in July, when Shikhar Dhawan led a second-string squad with the England Test series also going on simultaneously. Preceding that, Virat Kohli and Co played a ODI series at home against England.

ODI schedule:

First ODI: January 19, Paarl

Second ODI: January 21, Paarl

Third ODI: January 23, Cape Town

Here are brief updates from the chairman of selectors’ press conference (the full video is available here):

  • The T20I captaincy was Virat Kohli’s decision, the ODI captaincy was the selectors. All five of the selectors felt there has to be one white-ball captain.
  • There is no communication gap between selectors and team management. ODI team is getting selected today, only Test team was selected that day and we told Virat before the meeting that day once the selectors decided.
  • When Virat decided about T20I captaincy, of course we were all surprised. Everyone requested him to carry on and we’ll discuss after the T20WC. We respect Virat’s decisions. Request that this matter ends today.
  • When Virat told us about T20I captaincy, it was not the right time to discuss with him about ODI captaincy. How could we do that then? We had a World Cup in front of us, we worked so many years for that
  • I don’t understand these speculations. They are absolutely fantastic working together (Virat and Rohit). Leave the controversies in 2021. They are brilliant together, we are all like one family.