Ajinkya Rahane returns to India's squad for the World Test Championship (WTC) final against Australia. The summit clash will be played at The Oval between June 7 and 11. The India batter returns to the side for the first time since being dropped for the home series against Sri Lanka early last year due to poor form. Cheteshwar Pujara too faced a similar fate, however, he has since returned to the side following successful stints in County cricket.
With Shreyas Iyer nursing a back injury and Suryakumar Yadav's inexperience in the format, the selectors have gone back to Rahane, who has been in top form in the Indian Premier League (IPL) this season. He has scored 209 runs this season at a strike-rate of close to 200.
Suryakumar was handed a Test debut in the first Test against Australia in Nagpur, but had to make way for the returning Shreyas for the remainder of the series. However, he did not bat in the fourth Test in Ahmedabad after his back injury had recurred, which led to many pointing fingers at the NCA for allowing him to return to competitive cricket.
Fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah too made a premature return from a back injury ahead of the Asia Cup and T20 World Cup last year and missed both the marquee events as a result.
Since his axe from the Test side, Rahane has returned to domestic cricket where he has notched up 1,049 runs at 61.71 in 18 innings in this period, including four hundreds and a couple of fifties. Rahane's axe came after he had managed just 819 runs at 24.08 in 19 Tests since 2020. He had also hit one century and three fifties in this period.
There was also place in the 15-man squad for Jaydev Unadkat, who played his first Test in 12 years - against Bangladesh in Mirpur in December 2022. Despite being dropped for the final two Tests against Australia, KL Rahul has been included for the one-off Test.
India have also picked three spinners in Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and the back-up option of Axar Patel. Given that the match is being played at The Oval, we may see both Ashwin and Jadeja in the XI. There will be a toss-up between Shardul Thakur, Umesh Yadav and Unadkat for the third seamer's spot, which in all likeliness be led by Mohammad Shami and Mohammed Siraj.
India’s squad for WTC final: Rohit Sharma (Captain), Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, KL Rahul, KS Bharat (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Shardul Thakur, Mohammad Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Umesh Yadav, Jaydev Unadkat.