Rohit Sharma will be on the plane to Australia after all, although it will be as part of the Test squad rather than for the whole tour. Rohit had initially been left out of the squads because of a hamstring injury, a decision that immediately courted controversy as he was fit enough to lead the Mumbai Indians not long after the exclusion. In other changes in the touring party, Varun Chakravarthy, the spinner who received his maiden national call-up for India's T20I series, has been ruled out because of a shoulder injury. Fast bowler T Natarajan has replaced him in the squad.
Rohit's return is a significant development, in part because of the nature of his original omission. On October 26, the day of the selection meeting, the BCCI said in a media release that Rohit was injured and was being "monitored". Hours later, the Mumbai Indians posted a video of Rohit batting in the nets.
Rohit sat out four of the Mumbai Indians' matches after having hurt his hamstring while completing a run in the double-Super Over loss to the Kings XI Punjab on October 18. A few days after the selection meeting, India's head coach Ravi Shastri told Times Now in an interview that the batsman "could be in danger of injuring himself if he wasn't careful". Two days later, BCCI president Sourav Ganguly told PTI that Rohit had a hamstring tear, and could "rupture it" if he rushed back. However, a few hours after Ganguly made those comments, Rohit was back on the field, leading the Mumbai Indians against the Sunrisers Hyderabad in the final league game of IPL 2020. He also played in Qualifier 1 against the Delhi Capitals.
On Monday, the BCCI said Rohit would miss the limited-overs segment of the Australia tour, during which he would focus on his rehab ahead of the Test series. The decision, the BCCI said, was taken in consultation with Rohit and the selectors.
"The BCCI Medical Team has been monitoring Rohit Sharma's fitness and has briefed All-India Senior Selection Committee on the same," the BCCI said. "In consultation with Mr Sharma, it has been decided to rest him for the ODIs and T20Is in Australia to regain full fitness and he has been included in India's Test squad for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy."
Although the BCCI release did not mention it, it is expected that Rohit would travel with the rest of the Indian contingent to Australia immediately after the IPL final on Tuesday. Both the India and Australia players from the IPL are expected to board a chartered flight to Sydney, where India will start their quarantine but will be allowed to train.
Doubts persist over Saha, but BCCI positive on Ishant return
The one player the Sunrisers sorely missed in their last two matches before they bowed out of IPL 2020 was Wriddhiman Saha. On Sunday, during Qualifier 2, the Sunrisers captain David Warner said Saha had a torn hamstring in his left leg.
Today, the BCCI revealed that Saha actually had hurt hamstrings in both legs, which could put him in doubt for the Australia Test series. Saha had been named along with Rishabh Pant in the Indian Test squad.
The BCCI did not indicate any estimated recovery period for Saha, but has not yet ruled him out yet. "The senior Indian wicket-keeper sustained injuries to both his hamstrings during his side's IPL game on 3rd November. A call on his availability will be taken later."
One positive development for the Indian team management could be about Ishant Sharma, who has been undergoing rehabilitation at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru since returning home early from the IPL. Ishant, who is part of the Capitals in the IPL, had picked an abdominal muscle tear in the early weeks of the tournament this year.
On October 26, the BCCI said it would "monitor" Ishant, too, as he had not been named in the Test squad by Sunil Joshi's selection panel. Ishant is three matches short of becoming only the second Indian fast bowler to play 100 Test matches after Kapil Dev.
Recently, in its report to the BCCI, the NCA, which is headed by former India captain Rahul Dravid, had been optimistic about Ishant playing the Adelaide Test if his rehab went to plan. The NCA said Ishant would start bowling from November 18, and then he would need to gain match fitness. It is then likely that Ishant would play in the two tour matches in December before the first Test.
On Monday, the BCCI said "once he fully recovers and gains sufficient match fitness", Ishant would be "added" to the Test squad. Once again, it is unclear whether Ishant is going to travel with the rest of the Indian contingent to Australia this week, or fly separately later.
Samson in for ODIs, Natarajan earns maiden call-up
Sanju Samson, who was the top scorer for the Rajasthan Royals in IPL 2020, has been added to the ODI squad, after being named only for the T20Is earlier. The selectors had not named a back-up keeper to KL Rahul while announcing the original ODI squad, and Samson will now fill that role. Samson scored 375 runs in the IPL this season, at an average of 28.84 and a strike rate of 158.89.
Natarajan, who had a standout IPL 2020 with the Sunrisers, has also earned his maiden call-up for the national team, with the T20I squad, in place of the injured Chakravarthy. At the IPL, Natarajan's ability to bowl yorkers almost at will stood out, with the left-arm seamer sending down 71 of them, more than double anyone else. He picked up 16 wickets in 16 games, and his economy rate of 8.02 was good for someone who bowled a lot at the death.
Natarajan was scheduled to travel with the Indian squad in any case, being named alongside Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Kartik Tyagi and Ishan Porel as net bowlers. Among those, Nagarkoti has been withdrawn from the tour, with the BCCI stating that he was "still working with the medical team on his bowling workload management".
T20Is: Virat Kohli (capt), Shikhar Dhawan, Mayank Agarwal, KL Rahul (vice-capt, wk), Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Sanju Samson (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Navdeep Saini, Deepak Chahar, T Natarajan
ODIs: Virat Kohli (capt), Shikhar Dhawan, Shubman Gill, KL Rahul (vice-capt, wk), Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Mayank Agarwal, Ravindra Jadeja, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Navdeep Saini, Shardul Thakur, Sanju Samson (wk)
Tests: Virat Kohli (capt), Rohit Sharma, Mayank Agarwal, Prithvi Shaw, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (vice-capt), Hanuma Vihari, Shubman Gill, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Rishabh Pant (wk), Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Navdeep Saini, Kuldeep Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, R. Ashwin, Mohammed Siraj