KL Rahul will keep wicket for the Indians in their three-day warm-up match against a Select County XI starting July 20 at Chester-le-Street, with Rishabh Pant yet to link up the squad in Durham after testing positive for Covid-19 on July 8.
With Wriddhiman Saha also in quarantine in London, Rahul is set to slot in behind the stumps in the only warm-up match for the visitors ahead of the five-Test series starting on August 4.
It could not be confirmed why exactly Pant has not joined the camp in Durham - whether he is still recovering or the team's medical experts want him to take further rest. It is also not clear when Pant will join the squad, although he is expected to be available for selection for the first Test at Trent Bridge.
On July 15, BCCI secretary Jay Shah had said in a media statement that Pant was asymptomatic but was nearing "completion" of his ten-day quarantine period as prescribed by Public Health England for all those who test positive for Covid-19 or are identified as close contacts. Pant would have finished his isolation by July 18 and, subject to clearing two Covid-19 tests would have been fit to join the squad.
After the Indians dispersed for a three-week break a day after the World Test Championship final, which ended on June 23, Pant had moved out of the team hotel and Shah later confirmed that Pant had tested positive outside the team's bio-secure bubble.
So far, Pant and Dayanand Garani, a support staff member, are the two members of the Indian contingent to test positive. The development came after the Indians had been given their second Covid-19 vaccines in London on July 7. Garani, who works as a throwdown specialist as well as a masseur, tested positive on July 14. Consequently, the BCCI medical team placed him in isolation along with bowling coach Bharat Arun (and his family, which is travelling with him), Saha and reserve opening batter Abhimanyu Easwaran, all identified as Garani's close contacts. This group is currently in London and will undergo Covid-19 tests on July 20 and 22 before they travel to Durham.
Another opportunity for Rahul
This is a fresh opportunity to Rahul to throw his hat in the mix for a place in the XI for the Test series, especially after Shubman Gill was ruled out of the series with an injury in the lower part of his left leg. Gill, who made 28 and 8 in the WTC final against New Zealand, is understood to have picked up a stress-related injury and is likely to have stayed back in England, but not with the Indian squad.
Mayank Agarwal and Rahul are the two opening options to partner Rohit Sharma. While Agarwal played both as an opener and a middle-order batter during the 2020-21 Border-Gavaskar Trophy in Australia, Rahul had to return to India after spraining his wrist days before the Sydney Test in January. Although Rahul was part of the squad for the home Test series against England, he didn't get a go.
Rahul's previous Test was the second of the 2019 series in the West Indies. Since then he has played just one first-class match: the 2019-20 Ranji Trophy semi-final for Karnataka against Bengal.
Warm-up game to be behind closed doors
The practice match will the first game since the WTC final for the Indian players, barring R Ashwin, who played a one-off county championship match for Surrey recently, picking up a six-for in the second innings against Somerset.
However, Bracey has since been ruled out of the fixture as a close contact of a positive Covid case. He did not join the squad in Durham and the ECB confirmed that it was too late to 'bridge' a player in as a replacement. As a result, the 17-year-old Somerset academy player James Rew looks set to take the wicketkeeping gloves.
The three-day match will be played behind closed doors, but will be streamed on Durham's YouTube channel.
This story was updated to include news of Bracey's withdrawal