Opener KL Rahul has been added to India's squad for the second Test against England, to be played in Visakhapatnam from Thursday onwards. Rahul had injured his right hamstring while batting against New Zealand in Kanpur last month. The team management was satisfied with his fitness after he turned out for his Ranji side Karnataka and scored 76 and 106 against Rajasthan. Under Anil Kumble, it has become a norm for an injured player to play a first-class game before he is selected in the Test side.
That Rahul was playing his Ranji match in Vizianagaram, only about 65 km from Vizag, allowed Rahul to join the squad on Tuesday, which is when India began to train for the Test. The promptness with which India have got Rahul back in the squad - the Ranji match in Vizianagaram ends on Wednesday - could mean Gautam Gambhir will be dropped after he scored 29 and 0 in Rajkot. Gambhir made a Test comeback after two years because of injuries to both Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan. He continued to be a part of the squad, which now had 16 players.
Kumble all but confirmed Rahul was set to open with M Vijay in the Test. "Yes, Rahul is available for selection and you would want Rahul to be in the starting line-up, that's the reason he has been included," Kumble said.
"He has recovered now, and as per the protocol we wanted him to go and play a first-class match. Since the match was happening very close to Vizag, it's good to have him in the squad."
Rahul brought with him the confidence of a quick first-class hundred. "I'm feeling really good," Rahul was quoted as saying by Sportstar Live. "You can spend time in the gym, but you never know if your body is fully healed until you play a few games. This game has helped me gain confidence."
How important Rahul is for India is clear from how MSK Prasad, the chairman of selectors, was present to monitor his progress. An NCA physio also travelled with Rahul to help in his recovery. "To be honest, I did not know that he [Prasad] was here," Rahul said. "I don't have to prove anything to anybody. I just focussed on my game, getting fit and getting rid of any niggles.
"The NCA physio is here to make sure that I'm moving well. If the need arises, I can take his help. We want to be 100% sure that I'm fit when I come back. It doesn't make sense for me to come back into the team and then get injured again. The team combination and the mood in the dressing room changes when this happens."