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Mohammed Shami has tested positive for Covid-19, and will not take part in India's T20I series against Australia starting on Tuesday in Mohali. Umesh Yadav, who was originally meant to undergo rehab for a quad injury in Bengaluru, has been called into the squad and is now in line to play his first T20I in over three years.
Despite his sporadic appearances in international cricket, Umesh has been a regular in the IPL circuit and was among the best bowlers in the powerplay this past season, picking up 16 wickets overall at an economy rate of 7.06. He has recent form behind him as well, having topped the charts for Middlesex in the Royal London One-Day Cup.
The games against Australia - on September 20, 23 and 25 - and those against South Africa - on September 28, October 2 and October 4 - are the last T20Is that India play before travelling to the T20 World Cup next month. As such, they presented an opportunity for the team to see how Shami holds up after a two-month lay-off from cricket.
Shami, 32, hasn't been seen on the field since July 2022 and has not played a T20I since November 2021. Nevertheless, his experience, and his performance in the IPL - 20 wickets in 16 matches for the champions Gujarat Titans - were seen as key assets, prompting the selectors to keep him on standby for the World Cup.
This is the second time in about a month that India have had to deal with a key member of their team going down with Covid-19. Just before the Asia Cup, their head coach Rahul Dravid was diagnosed with the virus and had to delay his travel to the UAE. He was reported to have only mild symptoms and was eventually able to link back up with the team after their opening game against Pakistan.