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India vs England: Final call not taken, but team keen on KL Rahul and Ravindra Jadeja

In Virat Kohli's absence, injured duo's quick recovery may get them fitness nod for Rajkot

Indranil Majumdar Calcutta Published 11.02.24, 05:47 AM
Representational image.

Representational image. File picture

KL Rahul and Ravindra Jadeja have been included in the 17-member squad for the three remaining Tests against England but their chances of making it to the playing XI will depend on the duo clearing their fitness tests. The third Test begins in Rajkot on February 15.

Jay Shah, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) secretary, confirmed on Saturday that Virat Kohli will “remain unavailable for selection for the remainder of the series due to personal reasons”.

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The Telegraph reported on February 6 that Kohli would not play any of the Tests and there was little chance he would have a change of mind. He had informed the selectors and team management about his decision in Hyderabad before the series got underway.

It was learnt that chief selector Ajit Agarkar spoke to Kohli on Friday but the former captain expressed his inability again. It will be the first time in his career that Kohli won’t be part of a home series. With the series locked 1-1, the matches in Rajkot, Ranchi and Dharamsala assume greater significance.

While Bengal pacer Akash Deep has been rewarded for his good performance for India A against England Lions, Shreyas Iyer has been dropped. The middle-order batter has informed the Board about stiffness in the back and will head to the National Cricket Academy (NCA) for rehabilitation.

It was learnt that the medical team hasn't raised any alarm and Iyer will have to play Ranji Trophy to be in the reckoning for red-ball cricket. But with no Test matches slotted after the current series, Iyer could straightaway head into the IPL where he will lead KKR.

Iyer fared poorly in the two Tests against England — 35 and 13 in Hyderabad, and 27 and 29 in Visakhapatnam — and had already been given a long rope by the selectors. Known for his shortcomings against the short delivery, he has struggled in overseas conditions too.

Rahul is learnt to have fully recovered from pain in his right quadriceps but the medical team is not taking any chances since he has already had surgery in the same area nearly nine months ago. How he responds to practice sessions in Rajkot will determine his chances.

Jadeja’s case is slightly different. A hamstring strain usually takes a few weeks to heal but he was included after showing significant improvement during the rehabilitation sessions at the NCA. Jadeja is also acquainted with the conditions at his home ground which is another reason for Rahul Dravid and Rohit Sharma’s eagerness to field him.

Both Rahul and Jadeja will have to go through fitness tests though the team management is optimistic about their chances. With Kohli not there, the duo’s presence will be vital to prop up the middle-order.

Rajat Patidar, who made his debut in Visakhapatnam and scored 32 and 9, has been retained along with the uncapped Sarfaraz Khan. While Rahul will come in place of Iyer, it is not clear if the think-tank will go with only one pacer in Jasprit Bumrah.

It will depend on Jadeja’s availability. If Jadeja is cleared, Mukesh Kumar could make way for the all-rounder and India might go into the match with four spinners. But the bowling combination could remain the same if Jadeja is unavailable.

Mohammed Shami, who is recovering from an ankle injury, continues to remain out of the squad. While the team management is keen to play Bumrah in Rajkot, the vice-captain’s workload has come under focus.

Bumrah has already inflicted a huge psychological blow on the Englishmen with nine wickets in Visakhapatnam with his reverse swing and yorkers. A final decision on Bumrah is expected to be taken after having a look at the wicket for the third Test.

Siraj is back in the squad and will take Bumrah’s place whenever he is given a break during the series. Bumrah himself has been part of the deliberations on his workload and his views will also be considered before a call
is taken.

There is a strong possibility that Bumrah could be rested in Ranchi to keep him fresh for the final Test.

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