Selectors ponder options with Jadeja, Gill and Axar likely to miss South Africa tour
All three cricketers picked up injuries during the recent home series against New Zealand and could be out of action for a while
Injuries to Ravindra Jadeja, Shubman Gill and Axar Patel have forced the Indian selectors to deal with some big questions ahead of the upcoming Test and ODI tour of South Africa. ESPNcricinfo has learnt that all the three players are likely to miss the entire tour.
Jadeja, India's first-choice spinner outside the subcontinent of late, was ruled out of the second Test against New Zealand in Mumbai because of what the BCCI had said was swollen right forearm. Though Jadeja was present in Mumbai with the team, it is understood that he could be out of action for a long period.
If Jadeja does miss the South Africa tour, as is likely, it will be his second injury-enforced layoff this year. He had broken his left thumb during the Test series in Australia in January and had to miss the final Test in Brisbane as well as the entire home series against England.
As for Gill, he was ruled out of India's Test series in England in the summer after suffering a stress injury to one of his shins. Gill, who played the two Tests against New Zealand at home recently, sat out a few sessions of play in the second Test after first getting hit in the arm and then the finger.
With question marks over Ajinkya Rahane's future in the Indian middle order, Gill has been spoken of in some circles as a potential alternative.
If he can't make the cut for South Africa, it could open things up for the likes of Shreyas Iyer, who has just made a big start to his Test career, or Hanuma Vihari, who is currently on tour in South Africa with India A. Suryakumar Yadav, who was added to the India Test squad for the games against New Zealand but couldn't get a look-in, could also get lucky in case Gill isn't available.
The exact nature of Axar's problem could not be ascertained, though unconfirmed reports suggest it is a stress-related injury.
Axar is India's third-choice spinner behind R Ashwin and Jadeja, and if he can't make it, and Jadeja isn't fit either, Jayant Yadav, Shahbaz Nadeem or Saurabh Kumar could be in the mix.
Nadeem, who played the last of his two Tests in Chennai against England in February this year, has not been on the selectors' radar since, while Jayant was the preferred third spinner against New Zealand, and put in a strong performance in the second Test, when he picked up 4 for 49 in the second innings. Nadeem, however, could be in favour since he is a left-arm spinner, like Jadeja and Axar.
Saurabh is the wildcard in the race. The 28-year-old left-arm spinner has never really been close to a national call-up before but has excellent first-class numbers: 194 wickets from 45 matches - mainly for Uttar Pradesh in the Indian domestic circuit - at an average of 23.80. He is also currently on tour in South Africa with India A.
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo