IND vs ENG: With KL Rahul Out, Will India Hand Test Debut to Sarfaraz Khan in Rajkot?

With KL Rahul’s ruled out of the third India vs England Test in Rajkot, India’s selection conundrum has escalated further. The right-hand batter, who was initially ruled out of the Visakhapatnam Test with quadriceps pain, was named in the Indian squad for the remaining three Tests but his participation was subject to clearance from the BCCI medical team. However, on Tuesday a BCCI release confirmed that Rahul is not fully fit and will be monitored by the medical team for one more week.

Rahul is replaced by his Karnataka teammate, Devdutt Padikkal, who is enjoying a good run with the bat in the ongoing Ranji Trophy season with more than 500 runs in 6 innings. But in most likelihood, he will have to wait for his Test debut with Sarfaraz primed for a much-awaited India debut.

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With Shreyas Iyer already dropped, Virat Kohli being unavailable, no update yet on Ravindra Jadeja’s availability and now with Rahul ruled out, India’s selection of playing XI for the third Test gets very tricky. Before the action unfolds in Rajkot Friday onwards, let’s have a look at what India’s final line-up against England would look like.

 Sarfaraz in line for debut

With Rahul and Iyer out of contention, Sarfaraz becomes an automatic selection to grab the no. 4 spot in the line-up. After averaging over 100 and scoring consistently in the past three seasons, the Mumbai batter received a maiden call-up ahead of the Vizag Test but was limited to carrying drinks and a fielding substitute. However, the absence of Rahul, Iyer and Kohli will let Sarfaraz fulfil his dream of playing for the country. Rajat Patidar could be bumped up to No.4 and Sarfaraz getting slotted at No.5.

 Rajat Patidar to retains his place

The Madhya Pradesh star was handed a debut in Visakhapatnam, replacing an injured Rahul. Considered a ‘natural batter’ by his state coach, Patidar looked composed in his maiden outing with a score of 32, but could only manage 9 in the second innings, falling prey to Rehan Ahmed on both occasions. But just one innings isn’t enough to relegate Patidar and with Kohli and Iyer missing out, he would get promoted to No. 4.

The Jadeja dilemma – if he is fit will India drop Kuldeep?

Question looms over Jadeja’s availability which is subject to clearance from the BCCI medical team. The ace all-rounder missed the second Test due to a hamstring injury and moved to the National Cricket Academy (NCA) for rehabilitation. He kept posting updates on his recovery and eventually returned to the squad for the next three games. But is he fully fit to play in Rajkot? No answer to this question as of yet.

If Jadeja fails to make it, then Kuldeep retains his place. However, the return of the all-rounder might force the Chinaman bowler to warm the bench. Rajkot is known for its flat tracks and in no case would India overlook Jadeja, if he is fit, as he brings batting stability to the playing XI.

Dhruv Jurel vs KS Bharat

A lot has been spoken about Bharat’s contribution with the bat in the last two games. He scored 41, 28, 17 & 6 in four innings and more than his lack of runs, how he lost his wickets raises questions about his place in the line-up. Bharat bats lower down the order where the team require a dependable hand, but the Andhra keeper-batter has failed to produce positive results. He has added only 221 runs in 7 games at a meagre average of 20.09.

On the other hand, Jurel has retained his place as the second wicketkeeper and several experts have vouched for his Test debut. The keeper-batter from Uttar Pradesh has 790 runs to his credit in 15 FC games, including a century and five fifties. His recent heroics for India A in South Africa probably fast-tracked his career and it will be interesting to see if the management makes a bold step by allowing him to play his first Test at home.

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 Mohammad Siraj comes in for Mukesh Kumar

Mohammed Siraj is back into the mix and in all likelihood, will replace Mukesh in the playing XI to assist Jasprit Bumrah. The management had already made it clear that the bowlers would be rotated to manage workload and going by that, Siraj would get another game in Rajkot.

CricketNext’s Predicted XI for the Rajkot Test:

Rohit Sharma (c), Yashasvi Jaiswal, Shubman Gill, Rajat Patidar, Sarfaraz Khan, Dhruv Jurel, Axar Patel, Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Md. Siraj.

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