New Delhi: Star batter Virat Kohli has pulled out of the remainder of the Test series against England for personal reasons, the BCCI confirmed on Saturday, ending speculation around the premier player's availability for the high-profile contest.
Kohli had missed the first two Tests and that he could be unavailable for the remaining three matches was reported by PTI on February 3.
"Virat Kohli will remain unavailable for selection for the remainder of the series due to personal reasons. The Board fully respects and supports Mr. Kohli's decision," the BCCI said in a release.
Kohli is currently abroad for a pressing personal family matter.
The series is locked 1-1 with India bouncing back to win the second Test in Vizag after the visitors took the series opener in Hyderabad.
The third match is scheduled to start on February 15 in Rajkot.
That Kohli will be unavailable due to serious personal reasons was well-known but BCCI brass wanted to check one final time if it could avail his services for the final Test in Dharamsala from March 7-11.
"The selection committee always knew that Virat won't be available for the series and accordingly the contingency plan was kept ready. Everyone in BCCI wants Virat to fulfil his family commitments and then come back with a free mind as and when he deems fit," a senior BCCI source told PTI on conditions of anonymity.
Rahul is fully fit and Jadeja is getting there
The national selection committee included senior players Ravindra Jadeja and KL Rahul in the squad but their inclusion will be subject to clearance by the BCCI's medical team.
Jadeja had injured his hamstring during the opening Test while Rahul had a right quadricep niggle. Jadeja (87) and Rahul (86) were the top two scorers in Hyderabad.
"Rahul is already fit and ready to come back in the playing eleven. He had a bit of tightness in his quadriceps and the medical team didn't want it to get aggravated. In the case of Jadeja, it is a strain and he is getting better. There are still five days to go before the game and if he shapes up well, nothing like it," the source said.
If both Rahul and Jadeja return to the playing eleven, then Rajat Patidar, who made his debut in Vizag, will have to make way for one of them as Shreyas Iyer has already been dropped.
Iyer's injury makes it easy for selectors
Senior batter Iyer, who complained of groin and lower back stiffness has not been picked. However, his medical update has not been provided by the BCCI.
It is believed that Iyer would have been dropped in any case and his injury made the decision easier for selectors.
"If Shreyas was to be rested because of injury, the BCCI medical bulletin would have had an update. Since there are no updates, it can be concluded that he has got the axe," the source said.
Iyer has not scored a fifty for the longest time and his mode of dismissals on batting-friendly Indian tracks is a cause of concern.
It is understood that Iyer might not be considered for the longer version of the game in the near future as he has always been susceptible to short ball, a weakness.
India has one more big Test series in the current WTC cycle -- five games against Australia Down Under at the end of the year and Iyer, with his technique, is unlikely to get the selectors' nod for games on tracks offering steep bounce.
Akash's all-round ability gets him the nod
The only new face in the 17-man squad is Bengal speedster Akash Deep, who has been rewarded for his consistent show in first-class cricket and in the recent India A vs England Lions Test series.
Left-arm spinner Saurabh Kumar has been released with Jadeja coming back while Mohammed Siraj is back in the squad in place of Avesh Khan. Akash is also a handy batter and bowls at least 10 yards quicker than his Bengal teammate Mukesh Kumar, who is lucky to retain his place.
Akash is however unlikely to make his debut in Rajkot.
Currently, he is playing a Ranji Trophy match against Kerala in Thumba and will link up with the squad only on February 13. Senior pacer Mohammed Siraj would be ahead in pecking order.
Squad: Rohit Sharma (C), Jasprit Bumrah (VC), Yashasvi Jaiswal, Shubman Gill, KL Rahul, Rajat Patidar, Sarfaraz Khan, Dhruv Jurel (WK), KS Bharat (WK), R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Washington Sundar, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohd. Siraj, Mukesh Kumar and Akash Deep.