Virat Kohli skipping the Afghanistan Test to play county cricket in England, understandably, was the talking point on Tuesday’s selection committee meeting held in Bengaluru.
The Indian skipper was not in the squad that will be Afghanistan’s first opponent in Test cricket.
But both BCCI honorary secretary Amitabh Choudhary and selection committee chairman MSK Prasad defended the call to let Kohli play for Surrey in the English county season.
“Essentially the impression [of undermining Test cricket], which might have gone around is wrong,” said Choudhary during a media interaction on Tuesday. “Our focus remains Test cricket, we continue to believe that it is the format that is not only the genesis of cricket in the world but is something which we need to nurse all the time.”
The selection committee chairman Prasad said that Kohli’s missing the Afghanistan Test in Bengaluru “for a good cause.”
England’s a dusty patch in Kohli’s otherwise glittering Test career. In his only tour there in 2014 he made 134 runs in five matches at an average of 13.4.
“He is going out [of the squad for Afghanistan Test] so that he comes well prepared for the England tour,” said Prasad. “It’s always good he goes there and performs well. He is keen on performing well on English conditions. He wants the team to do well there as well.”
After the historic 1-0 triumph under Rahul Dravid in the 2007 tour, India lost Test series in England two times in a row (0-4 in 2011 and 1-3 in 2014). But this world No 1 team led by Kohli is fancied to do well there. And unlike the South Africa tour, wherein the team travelled just a week before the start of the Test series, the BCCI is keen on Test squad probables getting acclimatised to the English conditions.
Cheteshwar Pujara, playing for Yorkshire, and Ishant Sharma, playing for Sussex, are already involved in the county season.
Wriddhiman Saha, Murali Vijay and Mohammed Shami, will join the India A squad that will play four-day matches in England ahead of the Test series. The squad comprises Karun Nair and Jayant Yadav as well, who are looking to return to the Test side, and some promising youngsters like Prithvi Shaw (the Under-19 World Cup winning skipper), Mayank Agarwal (the leading run-scorer in last season’s Ranji Trophy) and Rajneesh Gurbani (who took a hat-trick in the Ranji Trophy final).
India will play a five Test series against England starting from August 1, apart from the three ODIs and three T20Is in the tour.
‘Dhoni is still India’s best wicket-keeper’
About the preference of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav over Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja in the limited-overs squads against England, Prasad said, “When they [Ashwin and Jadeja] were excluded from the side we made it very clear that youngsters were given an opportunity. It makes sense to give them [Chahal and Kuldeep] a long rope because of the number of wickets they have taken in the last year. They kept on improving game after game. It makes sense to continue with them when they are winning games at home and abroad.”
Answering a query about trying our different wicket-keepers in the limited-overs squad, he said, “[MS] Dhoni’s been doing extremely well. Of course, we tried out Dinesh Karthik in Nidahas Trophy and he did really well. But Dhoni is still the best wicketkeeper that India has. Yes, we are trying to get more wicket keepers. They get their chances in the A team so that they get prepared for the next level.”