Cricket

Team for England series to be picked on Wednesday


Given injury concerns to key bowlers, panel likely to announce team only for first two games

Chetan Sharma will chair his first national selection committee meeting on Wednesday, with the re-jigged panel set to pick the squad for the first two Tests against England, starting February 5.

The big question on the minds of an all-bowlers’ selection committee will be the availability of key bowlers for the crucial home series.

Since the bowling department has several injury concerns, it is understood that the panel will announce the squad only for the first two Tests, to be played in Chennai. Should the injured players be certified fit in time for the third Test, they can clear the COVID-19-related protocols and join the biosecure bubble in Ahmedabad ahead of the third Test.

The only reason to smile for the selectors is the availability of Ishant Sharma, the veteran pacer on the cusp of the 100-Test mark. Ishant has proven his match-fitness during the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and is a certainty.

The selectors will be given the lowdown on the availability of other key bowlers — Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja and R. Ashwin — all of whom suffered injuries during the Border-Gavaskar series in Australia.

Washington Sundar, who came good in Brisbane, and Kuldeep Yadav are set to be retained. It will be interesting to see whether the selectors hand a maiden Test call-up to leggie Yuzvendra Chahal. As for the batting department, it remains to be seen whether Prithvi Shaw retains his position as a reserve opener, with Shubman Gill having emerged as a reliable batsman at the top along with Rohit Sharma and Mayank Agarwal.

Hazare on the cards

Meanwhile, the BCCI is set to conduct the Vijay Hazare Trophy, the inter-State domestic one-day tournament, from February 15, leaving the fate of the Ranji Trophy in limbo in the pandemic-hit season. The apex council meeting on Sunday night was undecided on whether to conduct the Ranji or Hazare Trophy. But considering that the bio-secure hubs will have to be maintained for a longer duration for the Ranji, the BCCI is set to stick to the one-day tournament.

The Hazare Trophy is likely to be conducted in the same format as the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, with the same groups and venues for the league stage.

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