KL Rahul being ruled out of the England tour with a groin injury has left India skipper Rohit Sharma with a headache in the preparation for the fifth and final Test to be played at Edgbaston from July 1 to 5. India were 2-1 up last year when the series was postponed before the final Test due to multiple Covid cases in the visitors’ camp.
Rahul was undergoing rehabilitation at the National Cricket Academy, but with his recovery not going as expected, BCCI secretary Jay Shah has said the battter will travel to Germany later this month for treatment. The injury has kept him out of cricket since the Indian Premier League (IPL) last month. He was also ruled out of the T20I series versus South Africa after being named captain.
It is a blow to India’s chances against England and will force them to rework their batting combination. Opener Rahul played a key role in India winning the two Tests and dominating the drawn first Test. He starred in the series opener scoring 84 and 26 before setting up victory at Lord’s in the second Test with a classy 129. In the fourth Test, after India conceded a sizeable first innings lead, he led the comeback with a stand of 83 with Sharma.
The first batch of the Test squad has reached London. The immediate concern will be to decide who will partner Sharma. Unless the selectors name a replacement, from the current squad it looks like the management will go for Shubman Gill, who was in the original squad for the England series but was ruled out due to a shin injury and Rahul was picked.
Coach Rahul Dravid will however see how he copes against the swinging ball in the lead up to the Test, in the nets and in the matches they play. Gill was brilliant in his debut series against Australia, but James Anderson and Co tested his defence during the series in India, exploiting his penchant for punch strokes. It restricted him to one half-century in four Tests. The 22-year-old is the future for India, earmarked as the core of the batting unit, but against the swing bowlers he will have to make the adjustment of playing with soft hands.
With Cheteshwar Pujara back, the team has a tough call to make, whether to accommodate him and Hanuman Vihari. Pujara is already acclimatised to the conditions after scoring four hundreds in four games for Sussex in the English County Division 2. He was also part of the first four Tests. Vihari has done well in the chances he has got, in South Africa and in the two Tests against Sri Lanka. If they want to accommodate both, Vihari might be considered as an opener.