Senior opener Shikhar Dhawan’s curtailed practice session today raised serious doubts about his participation in the historic one-off Test against Afghanistan, starting in Bengaluru on Thursday.
Even though it still is not confirmed what actually happened to Dhawan, his unavailability on Thursday could possible open the door for Karun Nair in the middle-order.
In case Dhawan is unable to play, KL Rahul is set to open the batting along side Murali Vijay and Nair is likely to find a place in middle-order.
Unlike Vijay, who was rested for the optional practice session, Dhawan did turn up for training but was conspicuous by absence at the net session.
Dhawan stated off by doing some running between the wickets drill but looked gingerly and clearly in some discomfort. He was then seen talking to Indian team fitness trainer Shankar Basu and physio Patrick Farhat and after that he didn’t take part in the customary net session where Rahul spent extended time.
All the bowlers (two frontline pacers Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav along with spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja) save Kuldeep Yadav and Navdeep Saini were rested. Ditto for all-rounder Hardik Pandya.
The selection committee led by MSK Prasad has followed a pattern of like for like replacement. By that logic, Karun Nair being a middle-order batsman is expected to play at No 4 in regular captain Virat Kohli’s place.
Karun, who is going to lead India A in the four-day games in England, is being looked upon as Rohit Sharma’s possible replacement. Rohit, after his latest failure in South Africa, perhaps won’t find it easy to come back in longest format.
However, with Rahul in imperious form of late (at least in the IPL) and expected to play a key role in England, there is every chance of giving him the game time that he deserves.
Also checking out Rahul at No 3 and by pushing Pujara at No 4 will give team management a chance to create a back-up for the Saurashtra right-hander in case he flops in England.
There is a possibility of both (Karun and Rahul) playing but whether the team needs an extra batsman against a Test debutant nation is the bigger question.
The other big question is whether they will go with an extra spinner in chinaman Kuldeep Yadav, who might play Tests in England.
Ashwin (311) and Jadeja (165), with a collective 476 wickets between them, are expected to play but going by the nature of the Chinnaswamy track, there will be turn on offer, which might prompt them to keep an additional spinner in the side.
“The track definitely looked more brownish than yesterday (on the drier side) and you never know how it will look tomorrow. One thing is for sure that there will be turn on offer,” Afghanistan coach Phil Simmons said.
In that case, Hardik Pandya is likely to share the new ball with Ishant Sharma with Umesh Yadav sitting out.
However, Umesh has bowled some fantastic spells at the Chinnaswamy during the IPL and also has been one of India’s better pacers in home conditions.