Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli on Sunday made a high-profile comeback to India’s T20 squad for the three homes against Afghanistan with the former also named captain for the series beginning in Mohali on January 11. Rohit and Kohli last appeared in a T20 for India in the World Cup semifinal against England in November 2022. Back then, the two veterans along with KL Rahul were seen to be playing archaic cricket in the powerplay and the team needed to move on from that approach with Hardik Pandya earmarked as the new T20 skipper.

However, Pandya’s own injury in the ODI World Cup along and more recently, Suryakumar Yadav’s ligament tear, resulted in a lot of inexperience at the top of the order.

PTI had reported last week that the Ajit Agarkar-led selection panel was set to pick the celebrated duo for the Afghanistan series. “Decisions on Rohit and Virat can’t solely be taken by the selection committee. There is a lot at stake, broadcasters, sponsors and you can’t pick one and drop the other. Ajit and his team needed to maintain a status quo,” a former India selector told PTI on conditions of anonymity.

While Rohit’s chances of leading India in the T20 World Cup has considerably brightened, the development comes across as a big blow to Hardik’s captaincy ambitions at the global event in June.

However, he has replaced Rohit Sharma as Mumbai Indians skipper for IPL 2024.

The T20 squad also features Sanju Samson and Jitesh Sharma, who will be the two glovesmen with Ishan Kishan being ignored for the shortest format.

“Ishan wasn’t happy that he was travelling without much game time. He is on a break right now and is vacationing. In any case, selectors are in all likelihood are looking beyond Kishan.

“It will be interesting if he is picked for England Test series where KS Bharat will be back behind the stumps,” a BCCI source said.

Jasprit Bumrah and Ravindra Jadeja, the two Test team certainties, have been rested and Ruturaj Gaikwad isn’t fit to play yet.

All-rounder Shivam Dube has also been named in the squad in Hardik’s absence.

The Afghanistan series will be India’s last before the World Cup, which takes place right after the IPL.

Former South Africa captain Graeme Smith reckons leaving out the likes of Rohit and Kohli from any team is extremely tough. “I wouldn’t want to be a selector. It’s a very tough decision to leave out two players who have been incredible. Virat always comes back incredibly well. With the amount of talent that India has now, it is a difficult choice to make,” said Smith on the sidelines of an interaction organised ahead of SA20.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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