Virat Kohli will miss India’s home Test against Afghanistan, but MSK Prasad, Chairman of the Senior Selection Committee, argued that it’s for a good cause.
As soon as Kohli’s stint with Surrey for the month of June was confirmed, questions about his participation in the home Test against Afghanistan in June cropped up. It’s Afghanistan’s maiden Test match, a historic occasion, and will be played in Bangalore from 14 June. But India’s regular captain will not be a part of it, and the home side will be led by Ajinkya Rahane instead.
Kohli is not the only one skipping the match. Rohit Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah, who are all playing the IPL at the moment, have been given a break. But Cheteshwar Pujara and Ishant Sharma, who are both currently playing county cricket, have been included in the squad of 15.
Kohli’s woes in Test cricket in England have been well documented. The last – and only – time he was in England was in 2014, and he scored a measly 134 runs in 10 innings without a single half-century.
With India slated to embark on a full tour of England – five Tests, three ODIs and three T20Is – it came as no major surprise that Kohli wanted to use every possible opportunity to get used to the conditions there.
“Had that not been the case, we would not have considered and thereafter taken this decision to allow Virat as well as some others to give them a fair opportunity of acclimatising themselves in England,” said Amitabh Choudhary, the Acting Secretary of the BCCI, at the time of the squad announcement in Bangalore on Tuesday.
“Essentially, the impression which might have gone around is wrong and our focus remains Test cricket. We continue to believe that it is one format which is not only the genesis of cricket in the world but is something that we need to nurse all the time.
“There was no intention not to play. It was only because the English challenge is something which we have to rise to, to the satisfaction of the entire cricket fraternity of this country, that Virat will abstain for the right reasons.”
Prasad added that Kohli bunking the Afghanistan Test was “for a good cause”.
“Except Virat, the entire Test specialists are playing this match,” he argued. “Virat is missing out for a good cause. He is going out so that he comes well prepared for the England Test series. It is always good that he goes there and performs well and he is very keen. He himself wants to do extremely well in English conditions. It is a great opportunity for us to win the series.”
The Indian selectors also announced 16-member squads for the three ODIs in England and the T20Is in Ireland and England, and missing from the lists were Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, with Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav picked as the frontline spin options.
“When they were excluded from the side, we made it clear that two-three youngsters are being given an opportunity,” said Prasad. “And it made sense to give them a long rope. If you see the number of wickets that they’ve taken in the last year or so, it’s really heartening. They’ve kept on improving game after game, so it makes sense to continue with them when they’re winning games for us both at home and abroad.”
Prasad also said that the team management was also looking to groom five to six wicket-keepers as backup for Mahendra Singh Dhoni, though he insisted that the former Indian skipper remained the best stumper in the country.
“We are definitely working on five-six keepers,” said Prasad, himself a former India stumper. “In the last one year, for India A, we have changed three wicket-keepers so that we are preparing them for the next level. Having said that, Dhoni is still the best wicketkeeper that India has. He has been doing extremely well.”