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Ajinkya Rahane to lead India against NZ in Kanpur Test; Three key players to watch out for

Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Shardul Thakur, Jasprit Bumrah, and Mohammed Shami rested for New Zealand Tests

India vs New Zealand Test Series 2021, New Zealand Tour of India 2021, IND vs NZ
Rahane to lead India in Kanpur Test, Virat to join team from 2nd Test (©AFP/GettyImages)

The All-India Senior Selection Committee of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) on Friday announced India’s squad for the upcoming two-match Test series against New Zealand. The board has named a 16-member squad and rested Rohit Sharma and other senior players for the Test series as part of the board’s workload management following their hectic season.

The squad comprises some new names and debutants who will, in all likelihood, get their maiden Test caps during the series. Test vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane will don the skipper’s role for the first Test in Kanpur while Cheteshwar Pujara will be the vice-captain for the match. Virat Kohli will, however, return to the squad and lead the team India in the second Test.

Jayant Yadav makes a comeback after almost 5 years

The 31-year-old bowler Jayant Yadav has cut into the 16-member squad after a long gap of almost five years. He last donned the white jersey for India during their home series against Australia in 2016-17. He picked just two wickets in the first Test match that India lost by a huge margin of 333 runs. He did not get further chances in the team since then.

Yadav had performed credibly in the Test series against England in the same season before India played Australia.

Although, Yadav does not boast of a glittery figure in the domestic season including the Indian Premier League (IPL). Having only played 19 games and taken just 8 wickets in the IPL, he has not mainly been a favourable choice in the T20Is. However, his records have been decent in first-class cricket and also has a double ton to his name. He travelled to England as a replacement for Suryakumar Yadav for the India-England series in July this year. Now, he replaces Washington Sundar who is currently dealing with a finger injury he sustained during the England tour.

Senior players rested, Virat Kohli to join in the 2nd Test in Mumbai

Regular players including Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Shardul Thakur, Jasprit Bumrah, and Mohammed Shami have been left out as part of the workload management. They were a part of the playing XI of most of the matches India played since the halt of the World Test Championship (WTC) finals this year.

Regular Test skipper Virat Kohli too has been rested but only for the first Test and will join the side ahead of the second Test match in Mumbai. The selection committee has named Shubman Gill, Shreyas Iyer, Wriddhiman Saha (wicketkeeper) and youngster KS Bharat who can also keep wickets in the upcoming series.

India will also play their first match of the second edition of the World Test Championship in Kanpur against New Zealand. Therefore, in the absence of Rohit, Bumrah, Pant, and Shami the present pool of senior and experienced players including Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav and KL Rahul will have the extra burden of carrying the side on their shoulders.

India’s squad for Kanpur Test: Ajinkya Rahane (Captain), KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara (vice-captain), Shubman Gill, Shreyas Iyer, Wriddhiman Saha (wicketkeeper), KS Bharat (wicketkeeper), Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Axar Patel, Jayant Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Siraj, Prasidh Krishna

Three key players to watch out for

Shreyas Iyer

The Mumbai batter is yet to get his debut cap in the longest format of the game. He has been a bullish pick for India in white ball cricket, hence his pick in the absence of senior players becomes a natural choice.

He has led Delhi Capitals in the IPL to the finals and in the presence of new head coach Rahul Dravid, he can be asked to bat at several batting positions. In One-Day Internationals, he has aggregated 813 runs in 22 matches at an average of 42.78, including 8 fifties and a ton. He could very well be a part of India’s playing XI going ahead in the WTC for the next two years.

Shubman Gill

The 22-year-old had made his Test debut in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in 2020 and he has so far shown signs of improving and evolving depending on the varying conditions. Gill had been an integral part of Rahul Dravid’s Under-19 Indian team before making his international debut.

Gill has so far scored 414 runs in the 8 Test matches he has played so far. He is yet to score his maiden Test century after having been dismissed for a magnificent 91 runs in the Gabba Test against Australia in January 2021. He could be more intimidating with the bat under the able guidance of his Under-19 coach Rahul Dravid for the NZ series and going forward in the WTC.

Mohammed Siraj

Siraj has been the golden scout for the Indian selectors especially in the longest format. The 27-year-old, following an impressive season in the IPL and domestic circuit, was picked for the Australia tour last year. Since then, he has never looked back and so far, taken 30 wickets in just 9 games. From making his debut to becoming India’s frontline pacer, Siraj has only evolved and become an integral part of the Test lineup.

Rahul Dravid’s first assignment as Head Coach

Former Indian skipper and Under-19 coach Rahul Dravid has become India’s new head coach after Ravi Shastri’s tenure ended after the T20 World Cup 2021. He was earlier handed out the job of handling the team management on a limited overs tour of Sri Lanka in July 2021.

Dravid’s contributions as India U-19 coach and National Cricket Academy (NCA) director have mainly hinged on his ability of nurturing young talent and showing them the path of consistency coupled with hard work. He was successful in getting the U-19 side a World Cup win in Australia in 2018.

Under Dravid’s able guidance and his underlying talent of honing youngsters, one could envision exciting times ahead for the senior national side. His biggest test will be India’s tour of South Africa where the former are still looking to register their first Test series win.


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