New Delhi, Jun 24: Dashing Assam batter Riyan Parag on Monday became the first north-eastern cricketer to get an India call-up as a new-look T20 squad led by Shubman Gill was unveiled for next month's five-match series in Zimbabwe which will not feature any of the senior stars.

The series starting July 6 will be held entirely in Harare.

The national selection committee didn't pick any of the first team players, who are currently playing the T20 World Cup in the West Indies.

All the seniors like Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Jasprit Bumrah, Suryakumar Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja have been rested after a gruelling three-half months, including the hectic IPL.

Even the likes of Shivam Dube, Arshdeep Singh, and Kuldeep Yadav have been given a break. It is believed that the selectors want to broaden the pool of players looking at the 2026 T20 World Cup in India.

The announced squad marks a landmark for 21-year-old Parag, who had a stellar IPL season for the Rajasthan Royals with 573 runs which put him in the reckoning.

He became the first player from his state and region to get a call-up in a senior national team. Joining him from the RR camp were his franchise captain Sanju Samson and Dhruv Jurel as the two wicket-keepers in the side.

Punjab skipper Abhishek Sharma, who had a mind-blowing IPL opening with Travis Head for the Sunrisers Hyderabad and his franchise teammate Nitish Reddy from Andhra Pradesh are among the three rookies in the squad of 15 where only Mukesh Kumar is on the wrong side of 30s.

The average age of the squad is roughly around 25.

Reddy, a seam-bowling all-rounder is someone who the national selectors have been keeping an eye on for some time. His solid IPL performances and need to have some back-up plan for Hardik Pandya has led to his selection.

Boost for Gill

Gill, who led Gujarat Titans this IPL season, was unlucky to miss out on a final squad berth for the T20 World Cup.

But for the Zimbabwe tour, the selectors have included all the World Cup stand-bys -- Gill, pacers Avesh Khan, Khaleel Ahmed and finisher Rinku Singh along with Samson and Yashasvi Jaiswal.

It is understood that the committee was not keen on seniors like Pandya and Suryakumar, both contenders for captaincy, playing this series.

In case of Yuzvendra Chahal, he is a senior enough bowler and it is believed that playing him in Zimbabwe won't serve any purpose considering that he made his debut against the same opposition nearly a decade back.

Ravi Bishnoi, the third choice leg-spinner, who has always done well for India with 36 wickets from 24 T20Is, makes a comeback. However, there are no specialist left-arm spinners save part-timer Abhishek in the squad.

Lifeline for Washington Sundar

One of the most laudable moves by the selection committee is the left-field selection of Tamil Nadu all-rounder Washington Sundar, who was denied his fair share of opportunities in the wake of the Impact Player rule. He couldn't make the playing XI of SRH during most of the season.

Injuries and combination did hurt "Washy" as he is fondly called by his teammates and one of the silent heroes of the 2021 'Gabba Victory' might find a way to claw back into collective consciousness after a dry couple of years.

The fact that there aren't too many quality off-spinners, who can bowl in Powerplay, also helped his case.

Harshit, Dayal miss out

Two lion-hearted IPL performers, Harshit Rana of Kolkata Knight Riders and Yash Dayal of Royal Challengers Bengaluru, missed out as Mukesh Kumar, who has had decent outings for India, was preferred for his experience in death bowling and the ability to consistently send down wide yorkers.

Chennai Super Kings' Tushar Deshpande, who had 17 wickets with an economy of 8.89 in the IPL, was picked keeping the tracks in mind.

Samson and Jurel are Nos 2 and 3

Ishan Kishan seems to have fallen off the pecking order after his differences with the team management and is currently not even among the top three wicketkeepers in the shortest version.

Jurel, who had an impressive Test debut earlier this year, is the second keeper for the series behind Sanju Samson.

Squad: Shubman Gill (Captain), Yashasvi Jaiswal, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Abhishek Sharma, Rinku Singh, Sanju Samson (WK), Dhruv Jurel (WK), Nitish Reddy, Riyan Parag, Washington Sundar, Ravi Bishnoi, Avesh Khan, Khaleel Ahmed, Mukesh Kumar, Tushar Deshpande.

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New Delhi, Jul 22: The government on Monday cited an inter-ministerial group report prepared in 2012 to assert that a case for granting special category status to Bihar is not made out; a stand which came a day after BJP's allies from Bihar demanded the status for the backward state.

In a written reply in the Lok Sabha on the first day of the Monsoon session, Minister of State for Finance Pankaj Chaudhary said special category status was granted in the past by the National Development Council (NDC) to some states which were characterised by a number of features necessitating special consideration.

These included hilly and difficult terrain, low population density or sizeable share of tribal population, strategic location along borders with neighbouring countries, economic and infrastructural backwardness and non-viable nature of state finances, he said in reply to a question asked by JD(U) member Rampreet Mandal.

The decision was taken based on an integrated consideration of all the factors listed above and the peculiar situation of a state, the minister said.

"Earlier, the request of Bihar for Special Category Status was considered by an Inter-Ministerial Group (IMG) which submitted its Report on 30th March 2012. The IMG came to the finding that based on existing NDC criteria, the case for Special Category Status for Bihar is not made out," the minister said.

The Congress-led UPA was in power at the time.

JD(U) leader Sanjay Kumar Jha had voiced his party's demand for the status at an all-party meeting on Sunday. The Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas), also a BJP ally, and the opposition RJD echoed the same demand at the meeting.

The JD(U), though, has already conveyed to the Centre that it is willing to settle for a special financial package in case the status cannot be granted to the state.

The BJD and the YSR Congress had made the same demand for Odisha and Andhra Pradesh respectively in the meeting.

The government has in the past also argued that the 14th Finance Commission report has ruled out the possibility of any more states being granted the status, which includes tax relief and higher central funding for the beneficiary states.