Rahane to lead against Afghanistan, Rohit left out
Rohit Sharma has been left out of India's squad for Afghanistan's inaugural Test while Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar have been rested. Virat Kohli will miss the Test as he gears up for the England tour with a county stint with Surrey, which gave Ajinkya Rahane a second Test as India's captain.
All four players absent from the squad were part of the newly created A+ category in the BCCI's contracts list. However, the selectors found Rohit's performance in South Africa "less than satisfactory", a BCCI official told ESPNcricinfo. Rohit was chosen ahead of vice-captain Rahane in the first two Tests in which he scored 78 runs. It was arguably Rohit's selection in the Tests in South Africa that got him an A+ contract in the first place. The bowling loads of Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar are being managed carefully, which left Shikhar Dhawan as the only A+ player in this Test squad.
Nonetheless, most of India's other Test regulars found a place in the squad, allaying fears that Afghanistan would come up against a severely depleted squad in their historic debut Test, which will be played in Bengaluru from June 14 to 18. It will be the first Test match played in India in the month of June, in peak summer, but Bengaluru is cooler than most other Test venues in the country.
Cheteshwar Pujara and Ishant Sharma, who are currently playing county cricket for Yorkshire and Sussex, were both part of the India squad, with neither of their teams in action in the week of the Test match. All three regular openers - M Vijay, KL Rahul and Dhawan - featured in the squad, as well as spinners R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav.
There had been reports Ashwin and Jadeja might both be rested but it emerged a day before the selection that Ashwin had not pursued his talks with Worcestershire because he had committed to playing this Test. Had Ashwin been rested, he would have gone to England with little red-ball cricket behind him: Worcestershire have already signed up Travis Head instead.
In the absence of Bhuvneshwar and Bumrah, Ishant, Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami returned to the familiar role of India's first-choice quicks in home conditions. They were backed up by allrounder Hardik Pandya and Mumbai seamer Shardul Thakur, who is yet to make his Test debut but has played three ODIs and seven T20Is.
Karun Nair took the sixth specialist batsman's slot in Rohit's absence, while Wriddhiman Saha was set to resume wicketkeeping duties after missing the second and third Tests in South Africa with a hamstring injury. Neither Parthiv Patel, the back-up keeper on that tour, nor Dinesh Karthik, who flew in as Saha's replacement, have found a place in the squad.
The chairman of selectors, MSK Prasad, said this was an ideal opportunity to give Nair a chance, incidentally whose last Test was in Kohli's absence, in Dharamsala against Australia. "This was the best opportunity for us to give Karun a chance, because he's been doing well," Prasad said. "It would have been too much of a risk to try him straight in England."
Afghanistan were granted Test status in June 2017, when they and Ireland were made Full Members by the ICC. They will be the fourth team to play their maiden Test against India, after Pakistan, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh.
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo