Senior batters Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara have been dropped from India’s Test squad for the home series against Sri Lanka, the BCCI announced on Saturday (February 19). The selectors, who also named Rohit Sharma as the new Test captain, have opted for a re-jig on expected lines, with wicketkeeper-batsman Wriddhiman Saha and experienced fast bowler Ishant Sharma also getting the axe alongside Rahane and Pujara. Fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah has been announced as Rohit’s deputy.
India squad for test:
Rohit Sharma (c), Mayank Agarwal, Priyank Panchal, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, Hanuma Vihari, Shubman Gill, Rishabh Pant (wk), KS Bharat (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin (subject to fitness) , Ravindra Jadeja, Jayant Yadav, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah (vc), Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Umesh Yadav, Saurabh Kumar
Chief Selector Chetan Sharma said he spoke to all the four senior players who have been dropped and asked them to play Ranji Trophy while assuring them that the “doors are absolutely open” for them after the Sri Lanka series.
“The selection committee put a lot of thought into it and came to the decision. We have spoken to them earlier and we have told them that we will not consider them for the two Test matches against Sri Lanka. The doors are absolutely open for them. We told them to go and play Ranji Trophy. That is the best part for Rahane, such senior cricketers are going and playing Ranji Trophy… Just for two Test matches, the selectors decided to give a chance to other cricketers,” Chetan said.
On captaincy, Chetan Sharma said Rohit was the “clear choice” and will remain the Test captain as long as he’s fit and available. He also said that there were no other names on the table for Test leadership.
India squad for T20Is:
“Rohit Sharma is the No. 1 cricketer of our country and the most important thing is that he is playing all three formats. The important thing is how we manage Rohit and all the current cricketers are very professional, they know their body, they manage their body. With Rohit, there’s absolutely no problem at all. We will definitely talk to Rohit from time to time (with regards to rest and workload), and when we spoke, he’s absolutely okay. If a big player like him becomes a captain then automatically – even we’ve spoken about it at the selection committee – grooming captains under Rohit Sharma will be a tremendous thing for us,” Chetan Sharma said.
“For us, the longer Rohit captains we will be that much happy. We can take time-bound decisions. Anyone can be injured, there can be a problem… But for now let’s hope that everything goes right.”
Uncapped left-arm spinner Saurabh Kumar, who represents Uttar Pradesh domestically and was with the India A team in South Africa recently, makes it to squad too after impressing the selection committee on tour. Axar Patel, meanwhile, continues to recover and expected to be fit only by the second Test match in Bengaluru.
All-rounder Ravindra Jadeja, who missed the Mumbai Test against New Zealand and all three Tests in South Africa due to injury, makes a comeback but his long-time spin partner Ravichandran Ashwin will make the final cut subject to fitness. The veteran offspinner will be assessed by the medical staff ahead of the Mohali Test, Chetan Sharma said.
Left-arm legspinner Kuldeep Yadav, who last played against England in Chennai but has been largely out of favour vis-a-vis selection, makes a return to the Test squad and is likely to get a longer run this time around according to BCCI’s Chief Selector. “Kuldeep brings in variation which is difficult to read for the batsmen. The selection committee wants to give the players a long rope. He’d done well early on but was out of the team due to circumstances but we want to give him a longer run. If he bowls like he did in the ODIs, he will be an asset to the team,” Chetan said.
KS Bharat takes over Saha’s spot as the backup keeper. Opener Priyank Panchal, who was a part of the touring party in South Africa recently, retains his spot following the omissions of Rahane and Pujara while Shubman Gill makes a comeback after missing the tour with an injury.
Washington Sunder and KL Rahul have been ruled out of the Sri Lanka series, both T20Is and Tests, on fitness grounds while Shardul Thakur has been rested.
The first Test against Sri Lanka, which will also be Kohli’s 100th, starts in Mohali on March 4.