'Rishabh (Pant) played and scored a hundred in England, so we had to back him,' said the stand-in ODI captain.
For New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson, the immediate target was to win the series against India.
This is the first time that the BCCI has announced four squads at the same time.
The elegant Shubman Gill, who has impressed in limited opportunities in ODIs, is likely to open with Dhawan.
India will play three ODIs in the upcoming home series beginning October 6.
Rahul's name was not on the list when it was first prepared as he was not cleared to play after suffering an injury before the T20I series against South Africa.
In a rain-affected final ODI, India scored 225 for 3 in 36 overs, courtesy Gill's career-best knock of 98 and another half-century from skipper Shikhar Dhawan.
India were set for a 350-plus score but Dhawan's dismissal for the seventh time in the 90s led to a middle-order collapse with the visitors reduced to 252 for five from 213 for one.
The ODIs will begin at 7 pm (IST).
The extent of Kohli's niggle is still not known, but the Indian team management wouldn't mind giving the 33-year-old veteran a break so that he is available for the next two games at Lord's (Thursday) and Manchester (Sunday).