Ajinkya Rahane will lead the Indian team in the first Test against New Zealand at home starting November 25 in the absence of the regular captain Virat Kohli, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) announced on Friday. (More Cricket News)
Virat Kohli, who relinquished T20 captaincy after India were eliminated from the T20 World Cup in group stages, will join the team in the second Test and will captain the team. The Test series will be preceded by a three-match T20 series beginning November 17 in Jaipur. Kohli will not be a part of the T20 series after opting to take a break.
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“Virat Kohli will join the squad for the second Test and will lead the team,” BCCI said in a statement. Meanwhile, newly appointed T20 captain and regular opener Rohit Sharma is a surprise omission from the red-ball squad.
Along with Rohit Sharma, wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant and pacers Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami have all been rested as part of BCCI's workload management policy.
Middle-order batsman Shreyas Iyer made a comeback in the Test squad along with off-spinner Jayant Yadav. New Zealand are the current ICC World Test Champions after they beat India at Lord's in June.
One of the notable absentees from the Test side was Hanuma Vihari, who has been dropped from the 16-member squad. Vihari, it is learnt, is being added to India A squad for the tour of South Africa where he will get three matches to stake a claim in the main squad which will start its series in the last week of December.
According to sources close to the selection committee, Vihari’s current form, and not past record, has been taken into account while selecting the Test squad. Vihari, in his last six first-class innings for county team Warwickshire, produced scores of 32, 52, 8, 0, 24, and 43 not out. In the recent Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, his output across four innings read 26, 7, 57 and 4.
It is understood that Vihari’s defensive game is pretty similar to that of both stand-in vice-captain Cheteshwar Pujara and Rahane, who are going to bat at No.3 and 4 respectively. The reason behind including a more flamboyant Iyer is that against the second new ball, he can play a counter-attacking knock.
Interestingly, all the three openers in the squad -- KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal and Shubman Gill -- at some point in their careers, have batted in middle-order in Tests as well as first-class matches. There is a possibility that Agarwal and not Iyer will play in that middle-order slot.
Veteran Wriddhiman Saha, the oldest Indian Test player in this current set-up at 37, will get another crack at the traditional format during the two matches at Green Park and Wankhede.
Veteran spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja are the first choice tweakers with Axar Patel, who had a great series against England at home, also in with a chance.
Jayant, an off-spinner and stable middle-order batter, is also back in the series having done reasonably well in the 2016-17 series at home against England. He is the back-up for Ashwin. The pace attack will be led by Ishant Sharma with Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Siraj being the other options.
Prasidh Krishna is the fourth pacer in the squad and wicket-keeper KS Bharath has been rewarded for being in the fringe with a call-up in the Test squad.
Full Indian Test squad vs New Zealand:
Ajinkya Rahane (Captain), KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara (vice-captain), Shubman Gill, Shreyas Iyer, Wriddhiman Saha (wicket-keeper), KS Bharat (wicket-keeper), Ravindra Jadeja, R. Ashwin, Axar Patel, Jayant Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Md. Siraj, Prasidh Krishna, Virat Kohli (to join in second Test)