India squad for 5th Test: Devdutt Padikkal to make debut, KL Rahul ruled out | Cricket - Hindustan Times

India squad for 5th Test: Devdutt Padikkal to make debut in Dharamsala, Rajat Patidar to stay in squad as KL Rahul out

Feb 29, 2024 10:48 AM IST

India vs England 5th Test: Devdutt Padikkal will make his debut in Dharamsala, replacing an under-performing Rajat Patidar as KL Rahul remains unfit to play.

Devdutt Padikkal is likely to get his Test cap in the fifth and final match against England in Dharamsala, starting March 7 if KL Rahul doesn't regain his full fitness by this weekend. Hindustan Times understands that the chances of Rahul, who had to fly to London to see the specialist who had operated on his quadriceps last year, getting match-fit before the unwritten March 2 deadline, are very slim. He is all but ruled out of the last Test.

Devdutt Padikkal is all set to replace Rajat Patidar in India's XI in Dharamsala(PTI)
Devdutt Padikkal is all set to replace Rajat Patidar in India's XI in Dharamsala(PTI)

The Indian cricketers, currently on a break after beating England in the fourth Test in Ranchi to take an unbeatable 3-1 lead, will assemble in Chandigarh on Saturday before flying out to Dharamsala on a chartered flight either the same evening or the next day. Rahul was the selectors' and the team management's first choice to bat at No.4 after Virat Kohli's withdrawal due to personal reasons he hurt his right quad muscles during the series-opener in Hyderabad, forcing them to look at different options.

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And in came Rajat Patidar. The Madhya Pradesh cricketer made his debut in the second Test in Vizag and gave a good account of himself in the first innings with a fluent 32. But ever since, instead of taking off, Patidar's Test career tanked on the runway itself. Scores of 9, 5, 0, 17 and 0 in the next five innings made the selectors rethink their decision. A few innocuous dismissals against the spinners also didn't help his cause.

With Madhya Pradesh's Ranji Trophy semi-final match against Vidarhbha scheduled for Saturday, the selectors wanted to release the 30-year-old from the Test squad so that he could go back to domestic cricket and get his mojo back.

This, however, would only have been possible if Rahul was match fit. But as things stand now, the selection committee, that picked Rahul for the fifth Test subject to fitness clearance, is likely to go ahead without the experienced batter. If Rahul is not fit to play, as batting coach Vikram Rathour had also indicated before the start of the Ranchi Test, there is no point in asking him to join the squad. There is still no clarity on his return from the UK. After getting a detailed report from the specialist in London, Rahul will have to get the fitness clearance from the NCA before resuming batting. It is unlikely that he will return to cricket before IPL 2024.

Devdutt Padikkal to replace Rajat Patidar in India's XI

In this scenario, Rajat Patidar might keep his place in the squad but his spot in the XI is set to go to Devdutt Padikkal. The left-hander will join Patidar, keeper Dhurv Jurel, batter Sarfaraz Khan and fast bowler Akash Deep to become the fifth Indian cricketer making his debut in this five-match series.

Chairman of selectors Ajit Agarkar met head coach Rahul Dravid, the other members of the coaching staff and captain Rohit Sharma as soon as the Ranchi Test ended. After Rahul communicated his status in consultation with the NCA medical team, it was decided that going ahead with Padikkal was the best option.

"Padikkal will make his debut in Dharamsala. Rahul is unlikely to be available and the team management wants to have a look at Padikkal as it is the last international fixture before the IPL," a BCCI source told Hindustan Times.

Padikkal in stellar form

Padikkal was drafted into the squad before the third Test. The 23-year-old lanky left-hander, who has scored 2227 runs in 31 first-class appearances at an average of 44.54 with six centuries and 12 half-centuries, has been in stellar form this season, scoring 556 runs at an average of 92.66 in four matches. He has also scored three centuries in the six innings he has played, getting a three-figure score every time he crossed 50.

In Karnataka's fifth-round fixture against Tamil Nadu in Chennai that finished in a draw on Monday, Padikkal was player of the match, having scored 151 and 36. The 151-run knock came when Agarkar was watching the proceedings from the stands. Padikkal's highest score this season has been 193, which he scored in Karnataka's opening match against Punjab.

Padikkal was also part of the India A team that faced the England Lions in Ahmedabad and impressed with scores of 65, 21 and 105. His century in the second unofficial Test was part of a massive first-innings batting effort that helped set up an innings victory.

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    Aritra Mukherjee, who happens to be a journalist, is in an eternal relationship with food and sleep. He can, however, sacrifice both or at least the latter for his love-affair with cricket. 'He said,' 'he added,' 'he signed off' are some of his favourite phrases. When not juggling between food, sleep and cricket, he wastes time by surfing OTT platforms.

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