Rahane to lead India against Afghanistan in Kohli

Virat Kohli, Jasprit Bumrah, Rohit Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar are missing from India’s Test squad for Afghanistan’s inaugural Test. Ajinkya Rahane has been named captain of the side, while Kohli gears up for the tour of England with a county stint with Surrey.

All four players absent from the squad are part of the newly created A+ category in the BCCI’s contracts list. This is perhaps a move from the BCCI to rest these players, who are usually part of India’s squads in all three international formats. Shikhar Dhawan is the only A+ player in the squad.

Nonetheless, most of India’s other Test regulars have found a place in the squad, allaying fears that Afghanistan would come up against a second-string squad in their historic debut Test, which will be played in Bengaluru from June 14 to 18. It will be the first Test match played in India in the month of June, in peak summer, but Bengaluru is cooler than most other Test venues in the country.

Cheteshwar Pujara and Ishant Sharma, who are currently playing County cricket for Yorkshire and Sussex respectively, are both part of the India squad, with neither of their teams in action in the week of the Test match.

All three regular openers – M Vijay, KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan – feature in the squad, as well as spinners R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav.

In the absence of Bhuvneshwar and Bumrah – who are regulars in all three formats – Ishant, Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami return to the familiar role of India’s first-choice quicks in home conditions. They will be backed up by the allrounder Hardik Pandya and the Mumbai seamer Shardul Thakur, who is yet to make his Test debut but has played three ODIs and seven T20Is.

Karun Nair takes the sixth specialist batsman’s slot in Rohit’s absence, while Wriddhiman Saha resumes wicketkeeping duties after missing the second and third Tests in South Africa with a hamstring injury. Neither Parthiv Patel, the back-up keeper on the tour, nor Dinesh Karthik, who flew in as Saha’s replacement, have found a place in the squad.

Afghanistan were granted Test status in June 2017, when they and Ireland were made Full Members by the ICC. They will be the fourth team to play their maiden Test against India, after Pakistan, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh.

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