Kolkata: The Indian cricket board sprung a casting coup when they named former captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, a two-time World Cup winner, as the team mentor during their T-20 World Cup campaign in the UAE in October-November.
The return of 'Captain Cool' in the Indian dressing room, more than two years after he walked away for the last time in an Indian shirt during that semi-final heartbreak against New Zealand in 2019 ICC World Cup semi-final in England, almost overshadowed the biggest selectoral surprise of Wednesday evening.
Ravichandran Ashwin, the senior off-spinner whose omission during the ongoing Test series against England had been creating a major stir, staged a comeback to white ball cricket after more than four years while the rest of the squad went as per the script barring a few exceptions.
Asked how could the Indian cricket board's top brass manage to convince Dhoni to agree to this role, BCCI secretary Jay Shah said at the virtual interaction with the media: ''Mr Mahendra Singh Dhoni will be joining Team India as mentor for the upcoming T20 World Cup. I am glad that MS has accepted BCCI's offer and he is keen to contribute to the national team once again. MS will work closely with Mr Ravi Shastri as well as other support staff to provide support and direction to Team India."
Much like several of defining moves of his career, be it stepping aside from the captaincy and Test cricket at one go, retirement from international cricket with a mere instagram post on August 15 last year, his return to serve Indian cricket in a consultative capacity also came without fuss. However, the move appears to be a masterstroke on part of the BCCI as Dhoni, already in the UAE to lead Chennai Super Kings in the second phase of IPL, can provide valuable inputs to Virat Kohli and Shastri once they arrive from completely different English conditions.
Explaining the move behind giving Ashwin a second lease of life in T20 cricket, Chetan Sharma, the chairman of selectors, sounded logical enough: ''He had been performing consistently in the IPL and with Washington Sundar out of reckoning due to injury, Ashwin will be our main off spinner.
India squad: Virat Kohli (captain), Rohit Sharma (vice-captain), K.L. Rahul, Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant (wk), Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, R. Ashwin, Axar Patel, Ishan Kishan, Rahul Chahar and Varun Chakravarthy.
Standbyes: Shreyas Iyer, Deepak Chahar and Shardul Thakur.