Talking points from Indian squad for Australia tour. | Photo – AP/IANS |
- Rishabh Pant is not part of India’s white-ball squads for the upcoming tour of Australia
- KL Rahul has been appointed as the vice-captain of limited-overs sides and marked his comeback in Tests
- Suryakumar Yadav yet again missed out as selectors continue to make him wait for his maiden national call-up
Virat Kohli-led Team India will head to Australia for a full-fledged tour post the conclusion of the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL) 2020. Sunil Joshi-led senior selection panel announced India’s Test, ODI, and T20I squads for the much-anticipated tour on Monday. The Australia tour will be Virat Kohli & Co’s first international assignment since all cricketing activities were suspended in March this year.
India scripted history Down Under when they toured the country last time in 2018-19. Kohli’s men beat Australia 2-1 in their own backyard to become the first Asian side to win a Test series Down Under. However, with the return of David Warner and Steve Smith this year, Australia will start favourites in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy consisting of four Tests starting from December 17.
The conundrum surrounding Rohit Sharma’s injury, Rishabh Pant’s exclusion from ODI and T20I squads, and KL Rahul’s comeback in the Test side are some of the key talking points from the squad selected to tour Down Under. Here we look at five major talking points from India’s squad for the Australia tour which will get underway from November 27 with a three-match ODI series followed by as many T20Is and the Test rubber.
1) Rohit Sharma’s injury conundrum
Rohit Sharma has not been named in any of the three squads for the Australia tour owing to injury concerns. The senior opener picked up a hamstring injury during Mumbai Indians’ double Super Over clash against Kings XI Punjab and has since missed three games for his side in IPL 2020. While he did not feature in any of the three squads, Rohit hit the nets for MI in Abu Dhabi hours after squad announcement on Mumbai resulting in confusion of all sorts.
While his absence from India’s squad put a question mark on his availability for the rest of the IPL season, the MI captain hitting the nets means he is still trying his best to regain match fitness and the door remains open on his comeback for Team India. BCCI had said its medical team will monitor Rohit’s progress along with senior pacer Ishant Sharma, who is nursing an injury, as well. It remains to be seen if Rohit will head to Australia with the rest of the contingent as he did not turn up for Mumbai in their game against RCB on Wednesday (October 28).
2) Rishabh Pant handed ‘wake up’ call
Rishabh Pant was once seen as MS Dhoni’s natural successor for Team India but the wicket-keeper batsman’s career continues to go downhill. Often accused of not putting a price on his wicket and not making the most of his opportunities, Pant has failed to justify the hype around him despite being offered a plethora of chances in white-ball cricket. He has been excluded from India’s ODI and T20I squads with Rahul pipping him as the first-choice wicket-keeper batsman.
Pant was benched for the entire ODI and T20I series against New Zealand and has not managed to impress in the ongoing IPL where he has looked a pale shadow of himself, struggling to score runs at his usual brisk pace. His 253 runs in 9 games this season have come at a strike rate of 115. Pant has also been struggling with weight issues – something which the selectors were reportedly not impressed with as they decided to hand him a ‘wake up call’ with this exclusion which is certain to hit him hard.
3) KL Rahul returns to the Test side based on IPL performance?
KL Rahul has not put a foot wrong since taking over wicket-keeping duties from Pant in white-ball cricket. He was excellent in New Zealand and has continued his Purple patch in IPL. Rahul currently leads the run-scoring charts in IPL 2020 with 595 runs in 12 games averaging an impressive 59.50 and striking at over 132. He has been appointed as the vice-captain of the limited-overs sides in Rohit’s absence and will act as Kohli’s deputy on the gruelling tour.
However, his return to the Test squad has baffled many as questions were raised if it was on the basis of his IPL performances. Rahul last played a Test match for India against West Indies in August 2018. In his last six Test innings, Rahul has scores of 0,9,44,38,13 and 6. Rahul has made the cut but is unlikely to be a certain selection in the playing XI if Rohit manages to return in time. Prithvi Shaw and Mayank Agarwal opened in the absence of Rohit in New Zealand Tests and are likely to continue in Australia. India also have an untested Shubman Gill to try at the top if things don’t work out well.
Hardik Pandya the all-rounder or Hardik Pandya the batsman?
The lack of a pace all-rounder can hurt India’s chances in the ODI and T20I series with doubts over Hardik Pandya the bowler. Hardik is the only pace all-rounder named in the limited-overs squads but he hasn’t bowled a single over for Mumbai Indians this season. It remains to be seen if Hardik has been picked as the fast-bowling all-rounder or as a specialist batsman in the squad. Hardik has taken his finishing skills up a notch and will be favourite to bat at number 5 or 6 depending on the situation in T20s. In ODIs to his gun fielding and his batting abilities can see him play every game.
Suryakumar Yadav misses out:
‘Hope selectors are watching him play’- tweeted Harbhajan Singh on Wednesday night as Suryakumar Yadav was busy hammering RCB bowlers all around the park in Abu Dhabi. Days after being snubbed from India’s squad, SKY slammed an unbeaten 79 off just 43 balls to power MI to a five-wicket win over Indian skipper Virat Kohli’s RCB. He has been one of MI’s best batsman in the last couple of years and has scored runs in all sorts of situations. He scored 512 runs in IPL 2018 and followed it up with 424 runs in IPL 2019 at a strike rate of above 130. This season once again, Yadav has been among the runs for his team with 362 runs in 12 games at a strike rate of over 155. SKY not making the cut surprised many, with former cricketers even requesting BCCI president Sourav Ganguly to probe his omission from the squad.