Harbhajan surprise selection in Asian team
Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, axed from India's ongoing tour of Bangladesh, was Friday named in the Asian squad that will play three one-day internationals against Africa.
Those who are missing from the 14-member Asian squad, to be led by Sri Lankan's Mahela Jayawardene, are India captain Rahul Dravid, who has opted out of the series along with Sri Lanka's Muttiah Muralitharan and Kumar Sangakkara and Pakistan's Younis Khan, who will be playing in the English county championship.
Announcing the Asian and African squads, as well as the women's continental teams for the Twenty20 matches, Asian Cricket Council (ACC) CEO Syed Ashraful Huq said that there would be a women's Twenty20 and a men's Twenty20 encounter between Africa and Asia in Bangalore June 5.
The first Afro-Asia Cup ODI in Bangalore will be played June 6 after the Twenty20 matches. The second and third ODIs will be played in Chennai June 9 and 10.
Huq said that no vice-captain has been named for the Asian squad.
"The decision to name the vice-captain has been left to the captain, the coach (India's Roger Binny) and the manager (Sultan Rana of Pakistan) in case it is required," said the Kuala Lumpur-based Huq, a former Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) CEO.
A four-man selection committee, comprising India's Chetan Chauhan, Pakistan's Mohsin Khan, A.S.M. Faruque of Bangladesh and Lalith Kaluperuma of Sri Lanka, picked the four teams.
Chauhan, a former Test opener, tried to justify Harbhajan's selection, saying that Indian players were scheduled to play a lot of cricket in the coming months necessitating their rotation.
"In the next 15 months India has a gruelling international scheduled, so the senior players have been rested and we have to rotate the players," he said.
Another surprise selection of Pakistani speedster Shoaib Akhtar, who was dropped from the recent World Cup and has not played international cricket for a few months.
"Shoaib is trying to make a comeback. Before coming here I consulted the selectors and they said that Shoaib is fully fit to play," said Mohsin, a former Test opener.
Shoaib's selection has meant that Bangladesh's in-form fast bowler Mashrafe Mortaza has missed out. Mortaza was instrumental in his team's upset win over India in the World Cup in March.
Faruque said that Mortaza is young and would get lots of chances in the future.
Huq, who doubled up as the convenor of selectors, said that it was difficult for the selectors to pick the Asian squad.
"It was a very challenging task to pick the best possible squad to represent Asia. To choose between so many outstanding candidates was not easy, but our final selection represents the best available talent in Asia," he said.
The ACC along with the Africa Cricket Association first organised the Afro-Asia Cup in 2005 to raise funds for the development of cricket in the two continents.
Nimbus Sport International, the commercial partner of the ACC and ACA for the Afro-Asia Cup, will handle all television and on-field marketing.