Concussion rules Mayank Agarwal out of first England Test
Ajinkya Rahane, who had a hamstring niggle, has been cleared to play the first Test
India opener Mayank Agarwal will miss the Trent Bridge Test because of concussion, after he was hit in the head by a Mohammed Siraj bouncer in the nets two days before the match, the first of a five-Test series.
Agarwal copped the blow early in his batting session when, while trying to duck a short delivery from Siraj, he lost sight of the ball and got hit on the helmet before falling down. He was immediately surrounded by his team-mates, including Siraj and the support staff. A little while later, he walked out alongside physio Nitin Patel. He was seen holding the back of his head as he walked off.
Agarwal was set to play the Test after regular opener Shubman Gill went home with a shin injury. Abhimanyu Easwaran, originally with the squad as a reserve player, is now the back-up opener in the squad. KL Rahul, who has played 33 of his 36 Tests as an opener, is in the squad but it is believed he is being looked at as a middle-order batter. In the three-day warm-up match in Durham he batted at No. 5 and scored 101.
Hanuma Vihari and Cheteshwar Pujara have in the past opened for India as stop-gaps, but India's vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane seemed to rule out asking Pujara to move up from his usual No. 3 spot.
"Pujara is our No. 3 batsman," Rahane said during a press interaction not long after Agarwal had been hit but before the final announcement had been made regarding his unavailability. "Who'll open our innings we are again finalising our combination, it's not yet finalised. Pujara has been really solid for us as No. 3 batsman and he'll continue to bat at No. 3.
"As [far as] opening bat [goes], the captain, coach and management will decide the combination and you'll get to know soon."
The selectors had added Prithvi Shaw and Suryakumar Yadav, who were in Sri Lanka with the Indian white-ball squad, as back-ups, but they are yet to reach England and are expected to be available only from the third Test onwards because of the quarantine protocols in place.
As far as India's options are concerned, Easwaran last played first-class cricket more than 15 months ago and missed the tour game as he was in isolation following a Covid-19 incident in the Indian camp. The reason for calling up Shaw was to have another opening option, with reports that Rahul and Vihari were being looked at primarily as middle-order batters. Moving Pujara up would likely have a knock-on impact on the rest of the order too, and could mean Virat Kohli and others moving one spot up.
India were spared another headache, though, as Rahane, who missed the tour game with a hamstring niggle, was cleared fit for the Trent Bridge Test.
"I had a small niggle but I'm fully fit now," he said. "Whatever the physios and trainers asked me to, I've completed all those stuffs. I'm looking forward to the Test match. I'm completely prepared.
"The preparation has been really good so far for me. Even though I didn't play the three-day game, I was practising on the sidelines. Again, here in Nottingham, we have had a couple of good practice sessions so I'm completely ready."