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Who will open for India in Rohit Sharma’s absence? Coach Rahul Dravid answers

Rahul Dravid, India, England, Rohit Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Cheteshwar Pujara, Mayank Agarwal,

With regular opener and captain Rohit Sharma set to miss the fifth Test against England at Edgbaston and KL Rahul unavailable due to a groin injury, speculation has mounted over India’s possible playing XI. Even coach Rahul Dravid didn’t want to disclose all his cards ahead of the start of the match which begins on Friday in Birmingham and just stated that India had several options.

After Rohit Sharma tested positive for COVID-19 last week, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) added Mayank Agarwal to the squad as his replacement but the Punjab Kings captain has struggled in conditions where the ball moves around a bit in the past. That’s why Cheteshwar Pujara could be asked to open the Indian innings, something which wasn’t even ruled out by Rahul Dravid.

“We’ll make a decision. We will weigh a lot of factors. Obviously, Mayank is a regular opener. someone who opens regularly. We have other options too; Bharat himself has opened in a lot of games for Andhra and showed in that side game that he is batting superbly at the moment. He scored a 70 and 40 (43) opening the batting. We got him to open in that innings keeping a lot of things in mind,” Rahul Dravid said during a press conference.

“Pujara has got a lot of great quality. He has opened for India as well in the past. So I would not want to give things away but like I said, in our minds, we are clear in the direction we are going. We will see what happens to Rohit but I am not at the liberty to disclose the Playing XI. But we have clarity,” added Dravid.

In the same presser, Rahul Dravid revealed that a decision on Rohit Sharma’s inclusion in the starting XI was yet to be taken.

“Rohit is being monitored by our medical team, he has not yet been ruled out,” Rahul Dravid said in a virtual press conference on Wednesday. “Obviously, he needs to get the negative test to be available. So we will keep monitoring that, we’ve still got close to 36 hours to go. He will have a test later tonight and maybe one tomorrow morning as well. And then we’ll see.”

“Obviously, he’ll have to come out of that, and it’s really up to the medical team and sports science team to decide on that. We haven’t had a chance to see him, since he is in isolation. But we will keep monitoring the situation. Everyone else is fit. Ash (Ashwin) had Covid but he pulled through really well. The medical team is happy with him. Once we get an update on Rohit, there will be an official communication in this regard,” Rahul Dravid pointed out.

In Rohit Sharma’s absence, bowling mainstay Jasprit Bumrah is likely to lead Team India in the one-off Test against England in Birmingham, several reports in local media said.

Jasprit Bumrah was India’s vice-captain during the South Africa Test series earlier this year and will become the first pacer after the legendary Kapil Dev to captain India in Test cricket.

Jasprit Bumrah received Harbhajan Singh and Mohit Sharma’s backing as well. Both former India bowlers want to see Jasprit Bumrah lead the Indian team in the fifth and the final match of the series against England this weekend.

“I don’t know how well you know Jassi (Jasprit Bumrah) but I know him very well. We played a lot of cricket together. He is a very cool and calm character,” Mohit Sharma said in a conversation with ANI.

“On the field, he bowls aggressively but off the field, he is very calm and if he becomes a captain then the taboo of fast bowlers can’t become captain will not be there,” he added.

Interestingly, Jasprit Bumrah would be the sixth Indian captain in 2022, their highest number since 1959.

“It is what it is,” said Dravid. “When I took the job even I wouldn’t have predicted that there would be so many captains in the last six-seven months. That happens, right? In the times that we are living in, with Covid, there have been some unfortunate injuries to people. Even here, it is quite unfortunate what has happened to Rahul and Rohit in the last three weeks for us. And sometimes we’ve had to balance out the workloads of people. So it happens.”

“Of course, it is not something you envisage when you first start off, but if a situation arises then you react to that, you deal with that. And in spite of the number of captains we have had, we have played very good cricket over the last six to eight months. Yes, obviously the South Africa Test series was probably the one I would have liked to have won after going one-up. But even there I thought we were not outplayed, we were very close in a lot of those games. We had a few unfortunate injuries and some of our main players were probably not available for that Test series,” Rahul Dravid signed off.