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Fitness focus on Dhawan, Rahul ahead of team selection for England series

Selectors will base selection for five-Test series against England on medical report by an expert.

cricket Updated: Nov 02, 2016 17:45 IST
Sanjjeev K Samyal
Dhawan, left, is nursing a finger injury, while Rahul suffered a hamstring strain in the first Test against New Zealand.
Dhawan, left, is nursing a finger injury, while Rahul suffered a hamstring strain in the first Test against New Zealand.(AFP Photo)

Having scored emphatic wins in their last two series against New Zealand and West Indies, the same names in the India team should be automatic choices for the upcoming Test series against England.

However, the MSK Prasad-headed national selection committee will have quite a few things to consider in Wednesday’s meeting while picking the squad for the five-match rubber. The discussion is expected to mainly focus on fitness.

Among batsmen, they will have to check on the injury status of openers KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan, apart from No. 6 Rohit Sharma. India’s pace battery is getting to full strength with a question mark only over Bhuvneshwar Kumar.

Opening pair

In all probability, Gautam Gambhir will partner Murali Vijay in the first Test starting in Rajkot on November 9 as Rahul and Dhawan are unlikely to be battle-ready.

Dhawan is nursing a finger injury suffered while batting in the Kolkata Test against New Zealand and is all but ruled out of the first part of the series. Rahul has been out of action since he suffered a hamstring strain while batting in the opening Test at Kanpur.

Rehab report

The cricket board’s fitness expert will submit all the details of the progress made by these players as they were at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru undergoing rehabilitation till the end of last week. They were joined in NCA by the Test specialists, who were not part of the one-day series.

Players joined the conditioning camp at various stages, depending on their Ranji Trophy commitments. Ravichandran Ashwin, Cheteshwar Pujara, Vijay, Dhawan, Mohammed Shami, Ravindra Jadeja, Wriddhiman Saha, Bhuvneshwar and Rahul attended. Ishant Sharma, who missed the New Zealand series due to illness, played in two Ranji games for Delhi.

The injury to Rohit, who settled down in the middle-order against New Zealand, is the latest blow to the team. He suffered an upper thigh strain during his half-century in Saturday’s deciding ODI in Visakhapatnam. Depending on the report of his scan, the selectors will need to take a call on whether to risk him for the first Test.

Light knocks

Karnataka batsman Karun Nair, who was in the squad for the third Test at Indore as a replacement for Dhawan, should retain his place.

Dhawan did not bat in the nets at the camp. He has been advised to start with light knocks. His Delhi captain Gambhir should keep his place, having made a half-century in the second innings at Indore and scored 147 in Delhi’s last Ranji match against Odisha.

Top bowlers Ashwin, Jadeja and Shami were rested for the one-dayers to keep them fresh for the tough series and will be leading the attack against England. Amit Mishra, after his superb bowling in the ODIs, completes the spin attack while Ishant and Umesh Yadav will partner Shami.

The team management will be keen to have Bhuvneshwar back but Prasad and Co will take a call on the basis of the expert’s report from the camp.

Rahul and Bhuvneshwar have not played a match since they got injured and their match fitness is yet to be proved. One line of thought is to pick them to let the support staff monitor their progress and get them fit for the second Test.