Covid in mind, India name huge squad for Aus series
A jumbo Indian contingent will leave for the tour of Australia after the Indian Premier League with the selectors picking extra players to cover for the challenge of playing international cricket amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
A total of 32 players—16 for the T20s, 15 for ODIs and 18 for the Tests to follow—that includes four reserve pace bowlers were named on Monday. The squad will travel from the UAE to Australia and head straight into a bio-bubble ahead of the limited-overs leg of the tour in Sydney.
The squad shows selectors have picked players who can step up in case of injury or poor form as flying in replacements won’t be possible due to the health protocols. Injury could keep out opener Rohit Sharma and seasoned pacer Ishant Sharma from the Test series. Sharma, leading Mumbai Indians in IPL, is nursing a hamstring injury. Ishant has pulled out of the Delhi Capitals squad and headed to National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru following an abdominal muscle tear. “The BCCI medical team will continue to monitor the progress (of Rohit and Ishant),” a BCCI statement said. Rohit also missed India’s last Test series in New Zealand due to injury. He had impressed as Test opener in the home series against South Africa last year and Australia would have helped him cement his spot. There was some lack of clarity as Rohit was back in the Mumbai Indians nets on Monday. Ishant had been expected to be selected without proving match fitness but he also broke down in New Zealand.
KL Rahul, in rich form in white-ball cricket and leading Kings XI, has been named the main wicketkeeper-batsman while pacer Mohammed Siraj, who has also impressed with RCB, gets his maiden Test call up as the fifth bowler. Opening batsman Prithvi Shaw, despite an ordinary run in the New Zealand Tests, retains his spot as one of three openers. Mayank Agarwal as well as the talented Shubman Gill keep their places in the squad. Chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav returns to the Test squad as the third spinner alongside Ravindra Jadeja and R Ashwin. Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Navdeep Saini are expected to be in the playing 11 with Umesh Yadav also retained for his past experience of playing in Australia.
The first selection meeting chaired by new chief selector Sunil Joshi also has an eye on the T20 World Cup next year. It has excluded Rishabh Pant, struggling with fitness and form and named him only as a second stumper for Tests, behind Wriddhiman Saha.
Making the T20 squad is mystery spinner Varun Chakratarthy, first spotted in the Tamil Nadu Premier league. Now with KKR, he is the biggest beneficiary of this IPL.
The 29-year-old, a qualified architect, took up cricket late. He has been a key wicket-taker for KKR, taking 12 wickets, including a 5-wicket haul, before Monday. He joins forces with Washington Sundar, Yuzuvendra Chahal and Jadeja.
Rahul will be the ’keeper in white-ball cricket with Sanju Samson the second choice. His Karnataka team mate Agarwal will be a new entrant in T20s, having amassed nearly 400 runs for Kings X1 Punjab this IPL.
Four additional pacers—Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Kartik Tyagi, Ishan Porel and T. Natarajan—have been named to travel with the contingent. They will be reserves and will bowl in the nets for a squad confined to a bio-bubble.