Injured duo Ajit Agarkar and Yuvraj Singh have been named in the squad but in case they fail to recover in time, VRV Singh and Dinesh Karthik would board the flight to South Africa, chief selector Dilip Vengsarkar announced here today.
RP Singh and Ramesh Powar could not find a place in the squad and Gautam Gambhir did not get the nod either, despite his success in domestic cricket. Test opener Wasim Jaffer pipped Gambhir to the post, while VVS Laxman too failed to make the cut.
Anil Kumble, who recovered from his tendonitis injury, returned to the Team India fold, backed with his match winning effort against West Zone in Duleep Trophy opener. His return will strengthen the spin department.
Zaheer was rewarded for his excellent season with Worcestershire and the left-arm seamer also helped his cause with good showing in the Duleep Trophy.
Sreesanth, who was dropped for the Champions Trophy before he pencilled in as Agarkar's replacement, found a place in the side.
''We have picked these 16 players and this is a balanced side,'' Vengsarkar told mediapersons.
''We did discuss Gambhir's name but felt Jaffer's tighter technique would come handy in the hard and bouncy tracks of South Africa. Regarding Laxman, he is a class batsman but his fitness level is still not good enough to make it to the ODI team,'' Vengsarkar argued.
Vengsarkar felt one of the top five batsmen need to bat right throughout the innings and also defended the selection of Raina.
''Raina is a talented player and we need to give him long rope,'' he said.
The inclusion of Karthik is seen as a ploy to keep MS Dhoni on his toes and not to take his place for granted.
On Zaheer's return, Vengsarkar said, ''Zaheer has been bowling well and is back in form. That's why he was inducted in the side.
''Kumble, on the other hand, is an integral part of our ODI squad,'' he said, hinting that the veteran leggie is likely to be part of the team in next year's World Cup as well.
Regarding Ganguly, Vengsarkar said, ''We did not discuss Sourav for we discussed only those who have done well in the domestic circuit.'' Vengsarkar said Team India still has enough time in hand to find the right combination for the World Cup.
''Even after this five-match ODI series, we would play eight more one dayers - four against Sri Lanka and four against the West Indies, which means we still have some time for that,'' added the former India captain.
The five ODIs will be played in Johannesburg (Nov 19), Durban (Nov 22), Cape Town (Nov 26), Port Elizabeth (Nov 29) and Centurion (Dec 3).
A Twenty20 international, India's first, will be held in Jo'burg on Dec 1 between the fourth and fifth ODI.
The Squad: Rahul Dravid (Capt), Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Wasim Jaffer, Yuvraj Singh (Dinesh Karthik)*, Dinesh Mongia, Mohammad Kaif, Suresh Raina, Mahinder Singh Dhoni (wk), Irfan Pathan, Ajit Agarkar (VRV Singh)* Sreesanth, Munaf Patel, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble
* VRV Singh and Dinesh Karthik are stand-byes for injured Agarkar and Yuvraj Singh respectively