For a while it looked like Jay Shah had misplaced his rubber stamp but on Saturday, after the all-clear from the BCCI’s honorary secretary, India finally named their squad for the final three Tests against England and confirmed that Virat Kohli will not be returning.
Kohli sat out the first two instalments citing personal reasons and, with the series locked at 1-1, the situation is unchanged for the remaining fixtures in Rajkot, Ranchi and Dharamshala. “The Board fully respects and supports Mr Kohli’s decision,” said Shah in the BCCI squad release that included Ravindra Jadeja and KL Rahul after recent injuries.
This will be the first time Kohli has missed an entire home Test series since his debut in 2011 and on one level England will be buoyed. The 35-year-old is still his country’s highest batsman in the Test batting rankings (seventh) and averages 60 on home soil; one of the central pillars of his side’s 11-year unbroken run of series victories in India.
But given their stated desire for entertainment, Ben Stokes and his tourists may also share some of the wider disappointment at a modern great being absent from this marquee Test series. The broadcasters will certainly miss Kohli’s star power, so too the army of local supporters who sport the number 18 on the backs of their replica shirts.
Kohli aside, India’s squad does feature some changes. Jadeja and Rahul are both back after missing their side’s series-levelling 106-run win in Visakhapatnam, albeit with asterisks next to their names. Respective hamstring and quad injuries mean they will need to pass further fitness checks before the third Test that starts in Rajkot next Thursday.
If Rahul clears his, the right-hander would likely be a straight swap for Shreyas Iyer in the middle order after the latter was missing from the list and no official explanation offered. Local outlets have suggested Iyer has suffered from back and groin pain since the end of the second Test, even if his form with the bat had made him vulnerable.
While Mohammed Shami is now confirmed to miss the entire series with an ankle injury, Mohammed Siraj returns to bolster India’s seam options after a rest period. Jasprit Bumrah is similarly among the 17-man squad, albeit with India understood to be mulling over how best to manage their premier quick’s workload across the remaining fixtures.
Given the scoreline, and the devastation wrought by Bumrah while claiming nine English wickets last week, it would be a huge surprise if India offered their opponents immediate respite in Rajkot. Much may depend on how the 30-year-old feels after the ongoing nine-day break and the surface that awaits the two sides.
India squad for final three Tests versus England: Rohit Sharma (C), Jasprit Bumrah (VC), Yashasvi Jaiswal, Shubman Gill, KL Rahul*, Rajat Patidar, Sarfaraz Khan, Dhruv Jurel (WK), KS Bharat (WK), R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja*, Axar Patel, Washington Sundar, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Siraj, Mukesh Kumar, Akash Deep (*subject to passing fitness tests).