Regular captain Rahul Dravid and senior pros Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Venkatsai Laxman and Zaheer Khan did not feature in the 15-man squad announced by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) on Tuesday.
Agressive opener Virender Sehwag, off-spinner Harbhajan Singh and all-rounder Irfan Pathan make a comeback after being dropped for the ongoing tour of England.
Pathan will be joined in the squad by his elder brother, 24-year-old Yusuf, who is set to make his international debut as a hard-hitting batsman and off-spinner.
Dhoni, 26, who is India's one-day vice-captain, was the preferred choice to lead after Dravid, Tendulkar, Ganguly and Zaheer opted out of the tournament and Laxman was not considered.
India, reluctant to embrace a new format which has proved popular with audiences worldwide, have played just one Twenty20 international so far, against South Africa in Johannesburg last December.
The Indians won that game by a flattering six-wicket margin, chasing down South Africa's 126-9 with one delivery to spare.
The 12-nation Twenty20 world championships will be played in three South African cities, Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban, from September 11-24.
India are drawn with Pakistan and Scotland in group D of the preliminary league, with the top two advancing to the Super Eights round.
The tournament features the nine nations currently playing Test cricket along with Zimbabwe, Kenya and Scotland.
India's Twenty20 squad:
Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt), Virender Sehwag, Robin Uthappa, Yuvraj Singh, Gautam Gambhir, Rohit Sharma, Dinesh Karthick, Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Piyush Chawla, Irfan Pathan, Ajit Agarkar, Rudra Pratap Singh, Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, Joginder Sharma.