CHENNAI: With India’s chances of playing a couple of practice matches in Australia later this year appearing bleak, a few Test specialists are likely to fly to New Zealand as part of the A-side in November.
Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Karun Nair, and newly called-up openers Mayank Agarwal and Prithvi Shaw could be added to the squad. There is a strong chance that Murali Vijay (in pic) will join them.
After India’s tour of England, head coach Ravi Shastri had accepted that a couple of practice matches prior to the Tests could have been of great benefit to the side. During that tour, India had played six limited-overs matches before the Tests, but their struggles against the red ball were there to see.
However, in Australia, barring the three T20Is that precede four Tests, India are likely to play only one practice fixture. Given how India have not been big fans of these practice fixtures — they chose to not play one in South Africa, and reduced a three-day game to a two-day affair in England — means that there is no guarantee they will play more in Australia. This despite there being a 10-day gap between the third T20 and first Test at Adelaide.
Shastri had requested BCCI to arrange a couple of practice fixtures in Australia. But with that looking unlikely, they seem to be exploring the thought of sending their Test specialists to New Zealand. With the West Indies Tests ending on October 16, and with the A team set to play two four-day Tests in November, Pujara and Rahane look certain to be part of the latter.
Likewise, the management also seems to be contemplating as to whether it should send Shaw and Mayank to New Zealand, or whether the two should go back to their respective domestic sides, since Ranji Trophy will begin on November 1.
What also seems to have prompted this move is that in November, conditions in New Zealand will aid seamers, which will give players much-needed practice.
Apart from that, there seem to be thoughts about sending Rohit Sharma with the A team. But after his exclusion after the tour of South Africa, it remains to be seen as to how the team management handles this, because that tour coincides with India’s limited-overs assignments against West Indies.
Vijay still seems to be part of the plan. After his omission, he responded with a good run of scores with Essex. With two new openers in the mix, his experience is likely to be counted upon during the Australia tour.