MUMBAI: In the absence of Virat Kohli, who heads to Surrey in June to participate in the County Championship ahead of India’s long tour England this year, Ajinkya Rahane will lead the Indian team in the one-off Test against debutants Afghanistan in Bengaluru, starting June 14.
The national selection committee will meet in Bengaluru on May 8 to pick six different India squads – one-off Test against Afghanistan, India ‘A’ team for tour of England, ‘A’ team for tri-series involving England ‘A’ and West Indies ‘A’, T20 squad for tour of Ireland, T20 squad for tour of England, One-day squad for matches in England. Kohli will be back with the team once India land in Ireland to embark on what will be a long series of two T20Is in Ireland, followed by three T20Is in England, three ODIs in England and the five Tests.
Pujara, who wrapped up a stint with Yorkshire and is heading back home, will also play the Test against Afghanistan. With Rahane certain to lead India against Afghanistan, TOI got a gist of what the Tuesday selection committee meeting entails.
Openers KL Rahul and Murli Vijay, along with off-spinner R Ashwin, wicketkeeper-batsman Dinesh Karthik and Mumbai Indians allrounder Krunal Pandya will be among the cricketers part of the India ‘A’ team. A senior BCCI office-bearer told TOI, “Expect Pandya to be part of India’s T20 team, the way he’s been going about with his game”.
Given Karthik’s recent performances, including the match-winning one in the Nidahas Trophy, the selectors see the Tamil Nadu cricketer to play an important role even if not donning the gloves in the shorter formats at the international level. Karthik could find himself rewarded for his athleticism and is expected to be part of the squad even as the irreplaceable MS Dhoni continues to ply his trade behind the wickets. “Expect the batsmen to get a lot of playing hours and a very balanced work-chart for the pacers,” sources said.
Where Krunal – Hardik’s elder sibling — is concerned, the Mumbai Indians cricketer is likely to be rewarded for his all-round abilities and the inclusion in the India ‘A’ squad could just be a precursor to a T20I stint moving forward. From a batting perspective, regular India names such as Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Hardik Pandya will find themselves playing the Test match against Afghanistan.