The Indian squad for the upcoming Davis Cup World Group Qualifier against Italy has been announced on Monday with veteran Leander Paes, still the country's third highest-ranked player at 63 in the world, still on the sidelines.
Asian Games gold medallist Divij Sharan has been included in the Indian team, but N Sriram Balaji, who played the inconsequential fourth rubber against Serbia's Pedja Kristin, has been dropped from the squad along with Arjun Kadhe who was a reserve member.
Sharan is expected to play his second-ever Davis Cup tie and first since 2012.
India will host Italy on grass courts of South Club, Kolkata from February 1 to 2.
According to the new format, a total of 24 teams will play in the knockout qualifiers on February 1 and 2 to decide which 12 teams will play the year-end Finals. Only four semifinalists from 2018 season along with two wild cards — Argentina and Britain — have a direct entry.
Twelve winners in February will join these six teams for the 18-team Finals in Madrid in November 2019.
India lost their World Group Play-off to Serbia while Italy lost their quarterfinal to France. Since India are ranked 20, they again got a shot at World Group.
An AITA source reportedly told PTI that the new selection committee, led by Rohit Rajpal, has largely gone by the rankings.
"It picked the best four available singles players and the top-two doubles player," said the source.
Sharan had missed out on playing the Serbia tie due to a shoulder injury. The left-hander from Delhi, ranked 39, will play the doubles alongside Rohan Bopanna, ranked 37th with whom he has paired for 2019 on the Pro Tour.
Sharan had made his Davis Cup debut against New Zealand, playing the doubles rubber with Vishnu Vardhan, in India's 5-0 whitewash of the visitors.
As Yuki Bhambri continues to miss action due to his knee injury, the singles duty will be done by Prajnesh Gunneswaran (110) and Ramkumar Ramanathan (132).
Saketh Myneni (259), who ended a runner-up at the Bengaluru Challenger and has qualified for the Tata Open Maharashtra, has retained his place.
The team has a new member in young Sasi Kumar Mukund, who was impressive in the 2018 season. He has zoomed to 295 after beginning the 2018 season at a low 426.
The Indian team: Prajnesh Gunneswaran, Ramkumar Ramanathan, Divij Sharan, Rohan Bopanna, Saketh Myneni and Sasi Kumar Mukund.
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