Cricket

Agarwal and Vijay Shankar set to replace Rahul and Pandya


Mayank Agarwal and Vijay Shankar are likely to replace KL Rahul and Hardik Pandya for the remainder of the Australia series followed by the limited-overs tour of New Zealand.

The Indian selectors were forced to name replacements after the Committee of Administrators suspended Pandya and Rahul for their controversial comments on a TV show.

This is the first time Agarwal has been included in India’s limited-overs’ squad. The selectors and the team management were clearly impressed by his confident debut in the Test series in Australia, after being called in as a replacement for the injured Prithvi Shaw.

In the three innings he played, Agarwal compiled 195 runs with two half-centuries at handsome average of 65. India captain Virat Kohli singled out Agarwal as one of the finds of the tour, applauding the calm temperament he showed even on his Test debut at the imposing MCG.

Agarwal, who has been part of the India A line-up across formats, was the team’s highest run-getter on the tour of England in June-July 2018. He made 287 runs in four innings with two hundreds. Overall, Agarwal has impressive List A numbers, averaging 48.71 across 75 innings, with a strike rate of 100.72 and an excellent conversion rate: 12 hundreds and 14 half-centuries.

This is Shankar’s second time in the Indian dressing room after making his T20I debut in the Nidhas Trophy in March 2018. Shankar’s inclusion as a like-for-like replacment for Pandya might have come easy for the selectors after the Tamil Nadu allrounder finished as the highest run-maker during the one-day leg of the India A tour of New Zealand in November.

Shankar played the role of the finisher successfully, cracking 188 runs at an average of 94 in the three matches.

CoA split over inquiry procedure

Meanwhile, both Pandya and Rahul have a week to respond to the showcause notice issued to them by the CoA on Friday. The two-member CoA comprising Vinod Rai and Diana Edulji is figuring out who should carry out the inquiry once the players submit their explanations. The two members aren’t on the same page on this matter, which is complicated by the sexual-harrassment inquiry that the BCCI CEO Rahul Johri recently faced.

Rai is in favour of following the BCCI legal team’s opinion, which dictates that the CEO reach out to the players and seek an “early” explanation from them so that the inquiry can be expedited. In an email sent to Edulji on Saturday, Rai said the BCCI should conclude the inquiry by the end of the second ODI, which is on January 15, because it could not “afford to debilitate” the India team’s strength due to the “delinquent behaviour on part of some player.”

On Thursday, the BCCI legal team had told the CoA that as per rules, once the CEO had submitted his report based on the players’ explanation, the rightful and final authority to adjudicate the issue would be the Ombudsman. However, the BCCI has not appointed a new Ombudsman since the expiration of Justice AP Shah’s one-year term in 2016. The legal team recommended an ad-hoc Ombudsman be appointed as a stop-gap measure. Rai suggested to Edulji that the amicus curiae – Gopal Subramanium – appoint the ad-hoc Ombudsman.

However, Edulji disagreed. “We should be in no hurry to conduct the inquiry as then it will look like a cover up job being done,” she wrote in response to Rai. She also said Johri being involved in the inquiry would be “bad optics” owing to the “grave sexual allegations levied” on him recently, which were cleared by a three-member ad-hoc committee in controversial circumstances.

Instead of the ad-hoc Ombudsman, a role she pointed out the BCCI constitution does not “provide”, Edulji said the probe should be carried out by the CoA in the company of the three BCCI office bearers, or the CoA and the board’s acting secretary Amitabh Choudhury. Rai, who is overseas, has not yet responded.



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