India captain Rohit Sharma has been ruled out of rescheduled 5th Test against England after testing positive for COVID-19 for the second time. In his absence, pacer Jasprit Bumrah will lead India. (More Cricket News)
Rohit Sharma, who led India against Leicestershire in a four-day warm-up match, missed the final day's action after testing positive for the virus. He immediately entered isolation, and the BCCI had named Mayank Agarwal as a cover.
"Rohit is out of this Test match, starting July 1, as his RT-PCR test has come positive again. He is still in isolation. Jasprit Bumrah, who is one of the vice-captains in absence of KL Rahul, will lead the team," PTI quoted a BCCI official as saying on Wednesday. But the BCCI is yet to release an official statement.
Later in the day, India head coach Rahul Dravid refused to engage in captaincy dialogue, saying "It’s probably better the communication comes officially from official sources... Once we have exact clarity on Rohit, you’ll hear something from the official sources. It’s not for me to give out official communication."
Rohit will undergo two further tests - one in the evening and another on Thursday.
The development means, Jasprit Bumrah could be the first fast bowler in 35 years to lead India in a Test match, after Kapil Dev.
The right-arm pacer made his Test debut in 2018, against South Africa at Cape Town, and has since established himself as one of the best in the world. He has already taken 123 wickets in 29 Tests.
The rescheduled match will be played at Edgbaston, starting July 1. It's worth noting that the series finale at Old Trafford, Manchester last year was called off hours before the toss with the Indians failing to field a team. India were leading the series 2-1.
The two cricket boards then agreed to reschedule the fixture.
England camp was also hit with COVID-19 infection. On Day 3 of their third and final Test against New Zealand, wicketkeeper Ben Foakes complained of a stiff back and he subsequently tested positive for the virus.
England have added Sam Billings, who filled in for Foakes in the match, to their Test squad for the India match. Foakes however retains his place.
The match holds special importance for India, who are bidding to qualify for the ICC World Test Championship final for the second time in a row. They lost to New Zealand in the final of the inaugural edition. And now third behind Australia and South Africa, they are in dire need of WTC points.
Bumrah has been in the leadership for some time. Earlier this year, when the BCCI started the process to select the team captain after Virat Kohli's dramatic exit during the tour of South Africa, Bumrah then said that he is not averse to the idea of leading India.
"If given an opportunity, it will be an honour and I don't see any player would say no and I am no different. Be it any leadership group, I always look to contribute however I can, to the best of my abilities," Bumrah had said.
He was subsequently named KL Rahul's deputy for the ODI series in South Africa with Rohit out due to an injury.
In fact, Chetan Sharma, the chairman of selectors, had already said that Bumrah is being groomed as a future leader.