Virat Kohli continues to make himself unavailable due to personal reasons while Ravindra Jadeja and KL Rahul, who missed the second Test due to injury, have been included subject to their recovering from fitness issues.
The biggest call has been to leave out Shreyas Iyer. While there are reports that Iyer has complained of back stiffness, TOI understands that the team management and the selection committee were considering looking beyond him.
“Kohli had conveyed to the board well in advance that he planned to take a break from mid-Feb. BCCI and the selectors had checked with him if could manage to play in the series but he said that he needed to be with his family,” a BCCI source said.
It is also being assumed that Rahul, who is recovering from a quad strain, will be fit for the third Test in Rajkot starting on Feb 15. Jadeja’s recovery will be monitored once the team assembles in Rajkot on Sunday. “Rahul is almost certain to play third Test. Jadeja may have to go through fitness tests,” the source said.
India’s greatest worry has been the vulnerable middle order, and if Rahul and Jadeja can play together it will be assuring for the team management. Else, Axar Patel will be batting at No. 6.
It is also learnt that Iyer’s Test career could be at a crossroads. India are slated to play five Tests in Australia at the end of the year. Iyer’s struggles against bouncing and moving deliveries have been a worry.
The team management had hoped that he would cash in on the flat pitches in India, where he has a reputation of being a strong player of spin bowling. But he has looked out of form here as well, which has been a big disappointment.
The BCCI statement has specifically mentioned the reason behind Kohli’s absence and that Jadeja and Rahul are recovering from injuries. But it has not mentioned anything about Iyer’s omission.
The team management and the selection committee had backed Iyer and Gill to step up fill in for Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane.
Gill’s century in the second innings in the last Test has come as a relief but Iyer’s struggles have put him under immense pressure. The selectors are now looking at other options as well.
If Jadeja makes it, it will be interesting to see the composition of the playing XI in the next Test with Kuldeep Yadav also looking threatening in the last Test. India could be tempted to play Axar ahead of Kuldeep since the batting has looked a bit thin in the absence of Kohli.
Bengal pacer Akash Deep has been added to the team and Avesh Khan has been released.
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