Virat Kohli has chopped and changed the side since taking over the reins of the Test side. While many have been tactical, some are due to frequent injuries that have plagued the relatively young outfit.
India have a long season ahead, but injuries seem to be cropping up even before strain comes into play. In the two Tests against New Zealand, injuries have been common. Be it on-field blows, illness or aggravation of niggles, India are feeling the pinch. They have been saved by the depth in the squad.
Ahead of the series, Ishant Sharma was forced out after going down with chikungunya. Later, KL Rahul pulled out with a hamstring injury, and Shikhar Dhawan took a blow on the thumb in the Kolkata Test.
During India’s series in the West Indies, Murali Vijay was struck on the thumb, sidelining him for a Test.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar has been in and out of the squad. He too will miss the third Test, which begins on Saturday. He sustained a back injury during the second Test, in which he impressed with a five-wicket haul.
In most cases, replacements were ready and in form. While Rahul replaced Murali, thanks to his form in the two warm-up games before the series, Gambhir struck form with fine performances in the Duleep Trophy.
Bhuvneshwar has been replaced by Shardul Thakur, who made the cut after impressing with a five-wicket haul for India A on the tour Down Under.
Will India be this lucky throughout? As they hit the deck hard with back-to-back series in the months to follow, this might be tough to overlook.
It seems India have identified the problem. They have rested key players for the first three one-dayers against New Zealand, which follow immediately after the Indore Test.
Those rested include Mohammad Shami, Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin, all of whom are key bowlers in the Test team, and the selectors chose to give them a break considering the long season ahead.
Shami has been one of India’s most important players in the last couple of years. His ability to pick wickets in all formats of the game is a plus.
With Bhuvneshwar injured, Shami will be crucial for the team in Indore. But prone to injuries, better management of workload is needed.
Kohli touched upon the issue on Friday, stating the importance of balancing workload. “It’s very important to manage workload, especially for your fast bowlers. For the one-day matches, they’ve been given rest because it’s a long Test season and we need the bowlers fresh,” he said.
“Shami is someone who’s come back well, he’s worked hard on his fitness as well. He’s an important bowler for us in this full season and in future as well. But looking at the future, his fitness and rhythm are important,” Kohli added.
Incidentally, management of workload was mentioned in the Lodha Committee recommendations. It asked for a 15-day window before and after the Indian Premier League (IPL).