KL Rahul ruled out of third Test against England; Devdutt Padikkal called up

India
India have been dealt a blow in the lead-up to the Rajkot Test against England, with KL Rahul ruled out of contention due to a sore knee. Devdutt Padikkal, Rahul’s Karnataka team-mate, has been called in as a replacement.

Rahul had earlier missed the second Test in Visakhapatnam due to a quadricep injury, and was included in the squad for the last thee Tests only subject to a fitness clearance.

Already light on batting experience with Virat Kohli missing due to personal reasons, Rahul’s absence further complicates matters for India, who also didn’t pick Shreyas Iyer for the remaining three Tests.

That aside, it isn’t confirmed yet whether Ravindra Jadeja has recovered from the hamstring injury he had suffered during the first Test in Hyderabad. Jadeja is in the squad to play the third Test, which will take place on his home ground, but his participation is pending fitness clearance.

Meanwhile, this is a maiden Test call-up for Padikkal, who is expected to link up with the squad on Tuesday from Chennai, where he struck 151 and 36 against Tamil Nadu in the fifth round of the Ranji Trophy fixture that finished on Monday.
Padikkal, the 23-year-old left-hand batter, has so far aggregated 556 runs in six innings at an average of 92.66 this Ranji season. He has scored three centuries, with a highest of 193 in the season opener against Punjab. Prior to his most-recent Ranji outing, Padikkal impressed with scores of 65, 21 and 105 for India A against the touring England Lions in Ahmedabad. The century in the second unofficial Test was part of a massive first-innings batting effort that helped set up an innings victory.

He was also part of the shadow tour to South Africa with India A in December, where he had an opportunity to train alongside India’s Test regulars prior to an intra-squad fixture.

“South Africa was a great experience for me, in terms of having the chance to train with the seniors,” he had told ESPNcricinfo last month. “Being in and around them, playing that level of bowling prepares you well for the Ranji season. I looked at it as an opportunity to get volumes in, in terms of my batting. I’m grateful for that experience.”

Having started off as an opener, Padikkal has slowly transitioned into a predominantly top-order role that requires him to bat at No. 3 – and at times even at No. 4 – for Karnataka. With Mayank Agarwal and R Samarth opening the innings for his state side, Padikkal has established himself lower down. This change of role is something he has learnt to embrace after a middling IPL 2023 for Rajasthan Royals. The tipping point, he said, was his trade to Lucknow Super Giants, where he’ll be playing under none other than Rahul.

“I don’t look at it in terms of just being an opener anymore,” he had said. “I’m enjoying my opportunities, wherever they may be. Each position you bat in offers a different challenge. I’m trying to learn new things, [and] adapt to situations. It helps me grow as a cricketer, [and] helps me understand the game a lot more – not just in terms of my batting but [also] how the game works across different phases.”

Overall, Padikkal has solid first-class credentials, having averaged 44.54 across 31 matches. He has played two T20Is for India, both of which came against Sri Lanka in July 2021.

In Visakhapatnam, India handed a Test debut to Rajat Patidar. Sarfaraz Khan is the other uncapped batter in the mix along with Padikkal. Jadeja’s potential unavailability could well pave way for another Test debutant in Rajkot. It’s also likely India could still pick one of Sarfaraz and Padikkal even if Jadeja is available, if they go in with just two specialist spinners.

India have two full days of training leading into Rajkot, with the series locked at 1-1.

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