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Why did India pick Jurel, Avesh and Kuldeep for England Tests?

Last updated on 13 Jan 2024 | 08:28 AM
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Why did India pick Jurel, Avesh and Kuldeep for England Tests?

A look at some of the questions that arise from India's squad for the first two Tests against England

Why Dhruv Jurel?

India have named three wicket-keepers in the squad, with one of them being 22-year-old Dhruv Jurel. KL Rahul has impressed since his return to the fold and did a fine job in South Africa, where he slammed a ton in the first Test in Centurion. KS Bharat, too, was part of the squad as a back-up option. So, where did Jurel come from? Why is Ishan Kishan not even one of three wicketkeepers to get a Test call-up? 

Rahul Dravid had said that Kishan was not part of the T20Is against Afghanistan as he had requested a break, and as a result, he has to go back to domestic cricket and earn his way back into the team, which is the usual protocol.

With Rahul and Bharat in the side, what are the chances of Jurel getting into the XI in the first two Tests? Unless there is an injury scare, the chances are literally nil. However, Jurel’s call-up is a reward for his consistency – be it at the Under-19 level, for the ‘A’ team or for Uttar Pradesh at the Ranji Trophy or even the Indian Premier League (IPL) for Rajasthan Royals (RR). 

Jurel top-scored with 69 against South Africa A in the second unofficial Test in Benoni and also donned the gloves. In the ongoing match against England Lions, Jurel is the designated wicketkeeper despite Bharat being in the XI. Is it a sign that he is the second-choice wicketkeeper in the England Tests?

Rahul’s troubles against spin a worry?

KL Rahul has played just three Test innings in India since 2019 – and on all three occasions, he has been dismissed by spinners – averaging just 12.7 against them. Rahul was dropped mid-way through the Border-Gavaskar Trophy last year but had donned a different role back then.

However, in the series against South Africa, he donned the wicketkeeping gloves for the first time in Tests and marked it with a superb ton. However, the first two Tests could be a litmus test for the Karnataka batter to see, firstly, if he can seamlessly keep wickets against the spinners on turning surfaces and two, whether his ‘keeping will affect his batting.

While he has done that with ease in white-ball cricket, Test cricket will be a different beast. Moreover, since 2022, he has hit just 288 runs at 20.57 in Tests, which is not great by any stretch of the imagination, and India will hope that the extra burden on him does not hamper his ability to churn out runs or struggle behind the sticks against the tweakers. 

Avesh just keeping the seat warm?

In the absence of Mohammed Shami, India have roped in Avesh Khan for the first two Tests against England, as they did for the second Test against South Africa in Cape Town earlier this month. Avesh Khan’s breakthrough year was the 2019-20 Ranji Trophy season, which saw him pick up 28 wickets at 19.85 in five matches. That was good enough for him to be on the plane to New Zealand for India A, where he picked up the wickets of Glenn Phillips and Tim Seifert. 

However, he was away on national duty and, as a result, missed Madhya Pradesh’s title-winning campaign in 2021-22, but when he returned to the fold in 2022-23, the pacer finished with 38 wickets at 20.13, further proving his credentials in red-ball cricket. To add a cherry on top, he also picked a five-wicket haul against South Africa A, which has also helped his cause.

However, with Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj set to be the first-choice fast bowling options, the chances of Avesh breaking it seem unlikely, especially with Mukesh Kumar also waiting in the wings. If anything, his selection indicates that he is the next pacer in line to get the coveted India Test cap when a need arises.

Who is India’s third spinner?

While Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja are certain starters, India is likely to field one of either Axar Patel or Kuldeep Yadav as the third spinner, subject to the conditions, of course. Axar’s tally of 50 wickets at 17.16 in Tests is indeed phenomenal. You add his batting prowess – 513 runs at 36.64 – to the table; it looks to be an obvious choice. 

Even without Axar’s presence, India bat quite deep – till eight – which is needed for any team, especially in the subcontinent. However, this is where India could perhaps loot at Kuldeep Yadav, who, of course, is not as prolific as Axar with the bat, but he gives India another variety with his left-arm chinaman option, at least for the first two Tests. 

If it does not work out, India always has the luxury of going back to Axar. Kuldeep is yet to be given a long run in Tests, having played just eight matches since making his debut in 2017. Could this series change that?

What happened to Easwaran?

India have been flirting with the option of giving Abhimanyu Easwaran a go for some time now. He has always been on the fringes, given he has scored runs on a canter for both Bengal and India A. However, he has been completely overlooked for the first two Tests against England.

Easwaran has a stellar 2022-23 season that saw him score over 1,500 runs at a healthy average of over 73, but all he could muster up is a back-up option for the senior side. India perhaps would want to have a look at how Yashasvi Jaiswal fares in the first two Tests and accordingly take a call for the remainder of the series. A few low scores for Jaiswal could be the way in for Easwaran, who has proved his worth at every level.

In fact, Jurel, who has opened in five out of his 15 first-class matches, could very well be the backup opening option for India in the series.

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