Opening batsman KL Rahul is set to make a return to the Indian side for the second Test against England starting in Vizag on Thursday. Addressing the press ahead of the game, skipper Virat Kohli said that Rahul along with Murali Vijay were the first choice for the opening slots. “We are clear in our heads that KL along with Vijay are our number one choice,” Kohli said. “We were very clear that he would come back into the side whenever he would recover.”

Rahul’s return makes Gautam Gambhir’s exclusion certain after just three games. “Gautam got a chance to play while Rahul was away. He played well in different situations, but that is how team combinations work. Obviously, the team management looks at a preferred combination. We were pretty clear of that our combination would be,” Kohli added.

Rahul had suffered a hamstring injury during the first Test against New Zealand last month. He was sidelined for six weeks. After recovering, Rahul represented Karnataka in the Ranji Trophy. He impressed with a 76 and 106 and was recalled to the squad midway through the game against Rajasthan.

“We wanted him to be a part of the side as soon as he was fit again. Even it meant we had to pull him out in the middle of a Ranji game. It is within the rules and regulations. We did not have to look differently,” Kohli said. Rahul’s return was warranted after his replacement Gambhir failed to put up a show in both innings of the first Test.

Kohli hinted more changes as the team looks to wrest back the initiative from England, who looked the dominant side in Rajkot. “I wouldn’t want to give anything away, but we have a big squad and you might see some surprises,” Kohli said. Asked about spinner Amit Mishra, who came away from Rajkot with just three wickets, Kohli said that the management would look for an XI who would be in the right frame of mind.

“In a series like this where you’re playing a top side. There is very little scope of grooming people as such,” he said. “So you need to figure out as captain who is mentally prepared to take the field and make an impact. Obviously, it is common for a bowler to be out of rhythm in a game. But, eventually you have to figure out over a few days how someone is feeling going into a game against a top side because you want 11 players who are on the same page. Those are the things you want to figure out as a management group and we would like to take the best 11 into the side and the best bowlers who are ready to take 20 wickets.”