India allrounder Hardik Pandya has been pulled out of the squad for the first two Tests against Sri Lanka, beginning on November 16.
The BCCI said the selection committee had taken the decision in consultation with the team management to reduce the risk of injury to Pandya. “Considering Mr Pandya’s heavy recent workload, the decision was made to negate any possibility of a major injury concern. Mr Pandya will undergo a period of strength at conditioning at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru.”
Pandya, 24, played 30 out of 33 matches for India, across formats, since the start of the Champions Trophy. In fact, since June, no one has bowled more overs in ODI cricket than his 147.2 overs. Pandya struck a fifty on Test debut against Sri Lanka in July and followed up with a boundary-laden century in Pallekele.
His contributions in limited-overs cricket, however, were arguably greater: he helped India dominate Australia over five ODIs and was the Player of the Series.
While Pandya being rested may reduce India’s firepower, the decision was in line with the rotation policy that has been followed in recent times. The selectors have kept R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, India’s frontline Test spinners, on the sidelines in ODIs and T20Is, while fast bowlers Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav have been treated in much the same way.
Of these bowlers, only Jadeja is playing the fifth round of the Ranji Trophy, which began on Thursday, a week ahead of the first Test against Sri Lanka at Eden Gardens. However, several of India’s first-choice batsmen – Cheteshwar Pujara, M Vijay, Ajinkya Rahane and KL Rahul – and wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha turned out for their state teams.
Virat Kohli might also be rested for the third Test against Sri Lanka, and perhaps the limited-overs matches that follow, in order to keep the India captain fit and refreshed for the tour of South Africa in January 2018.
“Virat has played the maximum cricket in the world in the last one year. So he needs some rest at some point,” a BCCI official told ESPNcricinfo last month. “They [team management] firmly believe they will win [the] South Africa series and they want to be fully prepared. The BCCI will support and whatever they ask we will help out.”
India squad for the first two Tests
Virat Kohli (capt), KL Rahul, M Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (vc), Rohit Sharma, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma.