India's reserve players released to play in Ranji Trophy
The Indian team management have released Rohit Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Stuart Binny to play for their state sides in the next round of Ranji Trophy matches, beginning on November 7. KL Rahul and Ishant Sharma, who are also not part of India's XI in the Mohali Test, will however continue to be with the team and will be joined by Mandeep Singh and Gurkeerat Singh Mann as Punjab, their state side, has no Ranji Trophy engagements at the moment.
While Rohit and Bhuvneshwar will face up against each other at the Wankhede Stadium, Binny will join Karnataka in their home game against Odisha in Mysore. All the players will be given a day off for Diwali on November 11 following the conclusion of the Ranji Trophy round, before they link up with the national squad in Bangalore ahead of the second Test on November 14.
This is a modern move by Indian standards. While teams the world over release players from the squad not playing the Test, fielding local players as substitutes, should the need arise, India have been dead set against the idea in recent years. This gives players actual match time in the middle, and benefits their Ranji teams at the same time.
If Rohit, for example, dropped in a five-batsmen set-up, has to stake his claim for a spot in the next Test, he can now do so with runs for Mumbai against Uttar Pradesh, whose seam attack has been taking wickets. Bhuvneshwar's addition will only further bolster their attack in their marquee Group B clash.
One of the major reasons for being against this policy was that the team invests a lot in the fielding of the whole squad, and that they are not sure of the quality of the fielders the local association would provide.
"In the past we have tried, but the problem is that you need a good fielder in the extra players who are playing," MS Dhoni had said in 2013, when asked about the issue of adding players from the local association to give the reserves an opportunity to play for their state sides. "The other problem is that the association may say why you are releasing this player or not that player. I think most players want to play, but at the same time we'll see what's best for our team. We definitely want a fantastic fielder in the extras so that if some player is off the ground, we need that extraordinary fielder."
In this case, though, the team is lucky that Punjab are not playing a match in the next round of Ranji Trophy that starts on the third day of the ongoing Test. In addition, Gurkeerat was part of the ODI squad.
This is not yet a policy, but the team is not averse to the idea of flying in substitutes from other state teams should they not be as lucky as this time during the next Test.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo