Kohli withdraws from the series due to personal reasons
Star batter Virat Kohli has pulled out of the remainder of the Test series against England for personal reasons, the BCCI confirmed on Saturday, ending speculation around premier player’s availability for the high-profile contest. Kohli had missed the first two Tests and that he could be unavailable for the remaining three matches was reported by PTI on February 3.
“Virat Kohli will remain unavailable for selection for the remainder of the series due to personal reasons. The Board fully respects and supports Mr. Kohli’s decision,” the BCCI said in a release. Kohli is currently abroad for pressing personal family matter.
The series is locked 1-1 with India bouncing back with win the second Test in Vizag after the visitors took the series-opener in Hyderabad. The third match is scheduled to start from February 15 in Rajkot.
That Kohli will be unavailable due to serious personal reasons was well-known but BCCI brass wanted to check one final time if it could avail his services for the final Test in Dharamsala from March 7-11.
“The selection committee always knew that Virat won’t be available for the series and accordingly the contingency plan was kept ready. Everyone in BCCI wants Virat to fulfil his family commitments and then come back with a free mind as and when he deems fit,” a senior BCCI source told PTI on conditions of anonymity.
Jadeja and Rahul return to the squad; Iyer dropped
The national selection committee included senior players Ravindra Jadeja and KL Rahul in the squad but their inclusion will be subject to clearance by the BCCI’s medical team. Jadeja had injured his hamstring during the opening Test while Rahul had a right quadricep niggle. Jadeja (87) and Rahul (86) were the top two scorers in Hyderabad.
“Rahul is already fit and ready to come back in the playing eleven. He had a bit of tightness in his quadriceps and the medical team didn’t want it to get aggravated. In case of Jadeja, it is a strain and he is getting better. There are still five days to go before the game and if he shapes up well, nothing like it,” the source said.
If both Rahul and Jadeja return to the playing eleven, then Rajat Patidar, who made his debut in Vizag, will have to make way for one of them as Shreyas Iyer has already been dropped. Iyer’s injury makes it easy for selectors
Senior batter Iyer, who complained of groin and lower back stiffness has not been picked. However his medical update has not been provided by the BCCI. It is believed that Iyer would have been dropped in any case and his injury made the decision easier for selectors.
“If Shreyas was to be rested because of injury, the BCCI medical bulletin would have had an update. Since there are no updates, it can be concluded that he has got the axe,” the source said. Iyer has not scored a fifty for the longest time and his mode of dismissals on batting friendly Indian tracks is a cause of concern.
Akash Deep gets a maiden call-up as a backup pacer
The selection committee also surprised everyone by picking rookie pacer Akash Deep as a backup for the fast bowling department. Akash, who plays for Bengal, has impressed with his pace and swing in the domestic circuit. He has taken 35 wickets in 12 first-class matches at an average of 23.74.
“Akash’s all-round ability gets him the nod. He can bat a bit and is a livewire on the field. He has been bowling well in the nets and has the potential to trouble the English batsmen with his pace and movement,” the source said.
Akash will join the likes of Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav and Shardul Thakur in the pace attack. Jasprit Bumrah has been rested for the series while Bhuvneshwar Kumar is still recovering from his injury.
The selection committee also retained the core of the squad that played the first two Tests, with Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Ravichandran Ashwin and Axar Patel being the key players.
The third Test will be a crucial one for both the teams as they will look to gain an upper hand in the series. England will be boosted by the return of their captain Joe Root, who missed the second Test due to a stomach bug. India will have to cope with the absence of their talisman Kohli and hope that the others step up to the challenge.