Rahane To Lead India In 1st Test Against NZ

All-format stars rested; Vihari dropped, Iyer back

NEW DELHI: Vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane will lead India in the first Test against New Zealand before regular skipper Virat Kohli returns for the second match even as some all-format bigwigs got complete rest from the assignment in line with the BCCI's workload management of players.

Newly appointed T20 captain and regular opener Rohit Sharma, wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant, and pacers Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami have all been rested from the two matches in Kanpur (November 25 to 29), and Mumbai (December 3 to 7).

"Virat Kohli will join the squad for the second Test and will lead the team," BCCI secretary Jay Shah said in a statement.

Middle-order batter Shreyas Iyer made a comeback in the Test squad along with off-spinner Jayant Yadav. 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.

One of the notable absentees from the Test side was Hanuma Vihari, who has been dropped from the 16-member squad (will be 17 in next Test).

Vihari, it is learnt, is being added to the 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.

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, Agarwal and Shubman Gill -- at some point in their careers, have batted in middle-order in Tests as well as first-class matches.

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.

India's Test squad: 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, Mohammed Siraj, Prasidh Krishna.

Kohli Might Give Up Captaincy In Other Formats: Shastri

Former India head coach Ravi Shastri says Virat Kohli might give up captaincy in other formats after doing so in the T20 version to deal with the intense pressure associated with the job, especially in Covid times.

Shastri’s tenure with the Indian team ended with an early exit from T20 World Cup.

Kohli, who has taken rest for the T20 series and one Test against New Zealand to recover bubble fatigue.

Speaking to India Today, Shastri was asked about Kohli giving up captaincy in other formats to manage his workload better.

“In red ball cricket, India have been number one for the last five years under his captaincy. Unless, he wants to give it up or he is mentally fatigued where he says he wants to focus on my batting which can happen in the near future.

“It won’t happen immediately but it can happen. The same might happen with white ball cricket, he might say he had enough and he focuses on Test captaincy. It is his mind and body that will make that decision. He won’t be the first.

“A lot of successful players have given up captaincy to focus on their batting for their side.”

Shastri said Kohli remains the fittest cricketer in the team by far.

“He is hungry for sure, fitter than anybody in the team. No doubt about that. When you are physically that fit, your longevity only increases. On the captaincy part of it, it will be his decision but I see if anything he might say no to white ball cricket but red ball, he should carry on because he has been the best ambassador for the test cricket. That will make him carry on,” said Shastri.

Shastri reiterated that playing World Cup right after IPL was not ideal for the team but didn’t want to blame BCCI as the re-scheduling happened because of Covid-19.

“I won’t say that but because IPL was cancelled in April, they had no choice. But I don’t think that will happen in the future. Kapil is right about the scheduling part because it will take its toll,” he said when asked to comment on Kapil Dev’s statement on players prioritising IPL over country.

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