There will be another shake-up in India’s middle order. Shreyas Iyer will miss the Rajkot Test match from February 15, while KL Rahul will return from injury. While the players are on a week-long break with the series against England tied 1-1, there have been several rounds of telephone deliberations among the national selectors with concerns over injuries and workload management dominating the discussions. The official announcement of the team is awaited and the team will meet again in the Gujarat city on Sunday evening.
It is learned that Iyer complained of back stiffness and groin pain to the team management after the Visakhapatnam Test match. The Mumbai batsman has had problems with his back, with a lower back problem appearing during the fourth Test against Australia last year. This after he had to undergo back surgery due to a herniated disc.
Otherwise, Iyer’s place was in dispute after his run of low scores in the series – 35, 13, 27, 29. This from a batsman who was expected to play a key role given his ability against spin. The batsman has had two poor years in Test cricket, averaging 21.60 in 3 matches this year and 13.16 in 4 Test matches in 2023.
Virat Kohli is known to be still unavailable after his personal break, meaning his No. 4 spot could once again be taken up by KL Rahul. The Karnataka batsman’s hamstring should have been given enough time to heal after missing the second Test match, with the extended break between the second and third Tests as agreed by the two cricket boards ahead of the series. Rahul was at his fluent best during his first innings 86 in Hyderabad, before holing out to the deep.
Kohli’s unavailability and Iyer’s injury may give Rajat Patidar another opportunity. Even as Sarfaraz Khan, a prolific run-scorer in the domestic circuit, is pushing for a debut, India under Rahul Dravid-Rohit Sharma has always given the players a fair run. Patidar looked good at the crease during his 32 in the first innings in Visakhapatnam. However, he would be disappointed with the manner of his dismissal, at 9 in the second innings, where he attempted to cut leg-spinner Rehan Ahmed on a delivery that was too close for his comfort.
JADEJA RECOVERS WELL
The big advantage for the hosts would be the return of Ravindra Jadeja. It is known that one of the reasons for the delay in the team’s announcement is the final check by the physiotherapists on the all-rounder’s injury status.
Originally, when Jadeja suffered the hamstring injury in the 1st Test, it was believed that his return might take a while. On Wednesday, the cricketer provided an update on her fitness, with a smiling photo, “Getting better.” Interestingly, the team’s left-arm back-up Saurabh Kumar had already been released for the current round of the Ranji Trophy to be played between February 9 and 12.
If Jadeja returns, the team management will have the tough choice of dropping Kuldeep Yadav or Axar Patel from the playing lineup.
There have been discussions about how to manage Jasprit Bumrah’s workload for the rest of the series. But all indications are that they will stick to the original plan of giving the spearhead a rest in the fourth Test at Ranchi with a suitable gap before the third and fifth Tests. Bumrah’s 15 wickets at a phenomenal average of 10.66 have been instrumental in keeping India in the competitions so far. Mohammed Siraj, who was given a break for the second Test, will return to action in Rajkot.