The blows keep coming for India in their series against England after KL Rahul, who missed the second Test with a quad injury, failed to prove his fitness ahead of the third instalment that starts in Rajkot on Thursday.
Rahul was expected to slot back into India’s No 4 berth after the selectors dropped Shreyas Iyer; boasting eight Test centuries from 50 caps, he would have also brought some much-needed experience with Virat Kohli now out of the entire series for personal reasons.
But the Board of Control for Cricket in India has confirmed that Rahul’s injury requires a further week of monitoring by their medical staff before the fourth Test in Ranchi that starts on 23 February. The hosts, having levelled the series at 1-1 last week, must now look elsewhere for batting reinforcement.
Not that the next in line appears too shabby by way of record. Though yet to be capped at Test level, the right-hander, Sarfaraz Khan, averages 69.85 in first-class cricket – the fourth-highest figure in history among batters with a minimum of 50 innings after Don Bradman (95.14), Vijay Merchant (71.64) and George Headley (69.86).
The 26-year-old, who came on as a substitute fielder during India’s win in the second Test, recently made scores of 161, 55 and 96 against England Lions. However, with Rajat Patidar having made his Test debut at No 5 last week, returning scores of 32 and nine, India’s middle order is suddenly as green as the English spin attack it comes up against.
One option would have been to turn back to Cheteshwar Pujara on his home ground in Rajkot, not least with the 36-year-old veteran of 103 Test caps having scored his 62nd first-class century during the latest round of the Ranji Trophy.
But having dropped Pujara after last year’s defeat by Australia in the World Test Championship final, India’s selectors appear set on blooding the next generation and have now added the uncapped Devdutt Padikkal to the squad.
There was one positive from India’s return to training on Monday, at least, after Ravindra Jadeja emerged from the session unscathed. The all-rounder missed the second Test with a hamstring injury but is striving to return on his home ground.
England, back from a six-day break in Abu Dhabi, have seen the experienced spin bowler Jack Leach ruled out of the series with a knee injury.