Pacers T Natarajan and Shardul Thakur have been added to India’s Test squad for the remaining two matches in Australia to replace Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami, the Board of Control for Cricket in India announced on Friday.

The BCCI also confirmed that Rohit Sharma will be the vice-captain of the squad for the Test series. Cheteshwar Pujara was named deputy to Ajinkya Rahane for the Melbourne Test as Virat Kohli has returned to India. Now, with Rohit joining the squad for the last two matches, he will be assisting Rahane.

Follow’s coverage of the India’s tour of Australia here.

Umesh Yadav sustained a strain in his left calf muscle on day three of the second Border-Gavaskar Test in Melbourne. He underwent scans later in the day. The fast bowler cannot recover completely ahead of the remaining two Test matches and has been ruled out of the series.

The All-India Senior Selection Committee has named T Natarajan as Yadav’s replacement.

Ahead of the Boxing Day Test, Shardul Thakur was added to the Test squad as Mohammed Shami’s replacement after the senior fast bowler suffered a hairline fracture in his right forearm.

“Both Shami and Umesh Yadav will head to the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru for further rehabilitation of their injuries. Rohit Sharma has completed his quarantine and has now joined the Indian Cricket Team in Melbourne,” BCCI secretary Jay Shah said in a release on January 1.

Team India’s updated Test squad: Ajinkya Rahane (Captain), Rohit Sharma (vice-captain), Mayank Agarwal, Prithvi Shaw, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Hanuma Vihari, Shubman Gill, Wriddhiman Saha (wicket-keeper), Rishabh Pant (wicket-keeper), Jasprit Bumrah, Navdeep Saini, Kuldeep Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, R. Ashwin, Mohd. Siraj, Shardul Thakur, T Natarajan  

Shardul to get the nod?

India’s bowling lineup has been badly affected by injuries for this series. While Ishant Sharma was ruled out even before the Tests began, Mohammed Shami took a blow while batting in the second innings of the Adelaide Test. He did not bowl after that. In the second Test, Umesh suffered the calf injury early in Australia’s second innings and India were lucky in the sense that they had four other bowlers to manage the workload.

Natarajan has reportedly impressed in the nets so far, but the initial indications are that Shardul will get the nod for the third Test. It is worth remembering Navdeep Saini is already in the original squad as an option.

The 29-year-old from Tamil Nadu was originally named as a net bowler for the tour Down Under and then subsequently made it to the T20I (to replace Varun CV) and ODI squads (back-up for Navdeep Saini). He snared eight wickets (two ODI and six T20I) during his four limited-overs appearances in national colours. He has played 20 first-class games for Tamil Nadu and will now be in contention for a slot in traditional format.

“While people are excited about the brilliant progress shown by T Natarajan, we mustn’t forget he has played only one first class match for Tamil Nadu. And Shardul has been a seasoned domestic red ball pacer for Mumbai,” a source had told PTI according to earlier reports.

“Shardul was really unfortunate that his Test debut against West Indies ended abruptly due to injury even before he could bowl an over. He has been shaping up well and might replace Umesh in the playing XI.”

The final call will be taken by the head coach Ravi Shastri, stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane and bowling coach Bharath Arun after reaching Sydney. The third Test begins in Sydney from January 7.

Shardul has so far played 62 first class games and has 206 wickets to show for his efforts.

Another aspect that India would like to address ahead of the Third Test is a long tail that has affected the team. Shardul has six first class half centuries and during his stint with the national team in white ball games, he has proved to be a decent batsman.

“Obviously the next few training sessions will be important and that’s why the final call is likely to be taken in Sydney,” the source said.