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Kohli to skip Afghanistan Test Match

India captain Virat Kohli will play for English county side Surrey in June with an eye to adapting to English conditions ahead of leading his country on tour later in the summer. Kohli should be available for three four-day County Championship games against Hampshire, Somerset and Yorkshire. The right-handed batsman could also feature in three one-day Cup matches against Kent, Middlesex and Glamorgan. The stint means that Kohli will miss India's one-off Test match against Afghanistan in Bangalore which starts on June 14.

Kohli’s decision to skip the Test has created furore among Test former Test cricketers. "Look I am really surprised. I don't know that's Virat's choice but I am really surprised. I think a Test match is a Test match. I don't care who you are playing against, it needs to be number one priority," Michael Clarke said in an interactive session at the Indian Chamber of Commerce & Young Leaders Forum (YLF). "I still feel Virat can get what he wants in terms of coming and playing some games for Surrey and then I would like to see him fly back and play the Test match," he added. "I think there is a bit of a gap in the schedule which will allow him to do that. I think there are some one-dayers which he would be missing for Surrey. In my whole career I prioritised my country. I gave up every other opportunity to play for whatever franchise or other teams. To represent your country is the most special thing in the world. Whatever team you play against, I think that should be the No. 1 priority," added the 37-year old who led Australia.

However, Dilip Vengsarkar has backed India captain Virat Kohli’s decision to bypass the inaugural one-off Test against Afghanistan in June in order to play county cricket for Surrey ahead of India’s long tour of England. A former chairman of the national selection committee and one who fast-tracked Kohli’s international debut, when asked about Kohli’s Surrey strategy, Vengsarkar said, “It is a good decision because he will get time to acclimatise to the conditions. If I were a selector, I would have asked Pujara to stay back and play county cricket for Yorkshire, because he is one of the guys who will play in England. Playing against Afghanistan makes no sense; it defies logic to me. He has not been consistent so far in county cricket and he should get more chances, score runs and get into the groove before the Test series.”

On whether the Test openers should also being given time to acclimatise, Vengsarkar said, “To be honest, the Afghanistan Test has been wrongly scheduled. That’s what I feel. The focus should have been on the tour of England.” Vengsarkar, though, is pleased with the itinerary scheduled in England. “Compared to previous tours, this is a good itinerary because India has got enough games to play before the first Test. The full team will get sufficient time to get acclimatised. In South Africa, the team hardly got a match before the first Test.” Vengsarkar also touched upon playing a wrist spinner in Tests because the England batsmen are not good facing leg-spin and that Dinesh Karthik is a fantastic player to have in the side. “DK is another good player, I am huge fan of DK.”

Former India skipper Sourav Ganguly has said that since M.S. Dhoni is irreplaceable at the moment, promising young wicketkeeper-batsmen like Rishabh Pant and Ishan Kishan, who has been performing well in the Indian Premier League (IPL), will have to wait to make it to the Indian side on a regular basis. Sharing his views on Delhi Daredevils player Pant’s blistering 63- ball unbeaten 128 against Sunrisers Hyderabad recently, Ganguly said, “I think he is the future. For the likes of Pant and Ishan Kishan (who scored a 21-ball 62 against Kolkata Knight Riders the other night), time will come. They are young, there’s no hurry. They will get matured as they play more games. “But consistency is important... When you pick someone for the country, you look for consistency,” said Ganguly at a promotional event.

There were not too many surprises when the selectors picked six sets of squads for the senior team and A team. For all his success in limited-overs cricket, Rohit Sharma has struggled to nail down a permanent slot in the Test team. After scores of 11,10,10 and 47 in two Tests in South Africa, Rohit was left out of the Test squad for Afghanistan and he wasn’t named in the A squad for the four-day matches in England either. With Virat Kohli missing the Afghanistan Test, it could have given Rohit another lifeline but the selectors chose to reward Karun Nair instead.

Ambati Rayudu has proven to be a good pick by Chennai Super Kings who has scored 423 runs in ten games so far this IPL season, and sits in second place in the top runscorers list. This should have been good enough for a spot in India’s T20 squad for England and Ireland, yet the selectors have only picked him for the one-dayers. Looking at the squads, it could be concluded that his biggest competitor for a spot in the T20 squad is Suresh Raina, who was recalled to the side recently. Both Rayudu and Raina are in their early 30s and have been in and out of the Indian team. Now with Dinesh Karthik in fine form with the bat, the competition for those slots in the T20 batting line-up is getting tougher.

There weren’t many surprises in the India squads this time, with the selection committee not exactly swayed by the IPL performances of the up and coming stars and fresh faces like Mumbai Indians leg-spinner Mayank Markande. While Markande is only in his first season, others like Suryakumar Yadav, Krunal Pandya, Nitish Rana and Ankit Rajpoot have been around longer. Rajpoot, Krunal and K. Gowtham have been included in the A squads though, sending out the message that the IPL may not necessarily be the fial selection trial, but an important step nevertheless in gaining the India cap. One uncapped player who has been rewarded with a call-up to the senior limited-overs teams is Siddarth Kaul, who has bowled well at the death for Sunrisers Hyderabad.

Rishabh Pant has had everyone gasping with his powerful hitting for Delhi Daredevils, with 393 runs in ten games, but he has missed selection for the senior side and finds himself only in the A squad for the tri-series in England. With MS Dhoni rediscovering his form, Pant will have to wait for his chances.

However, he missed out to KS Bharat from Andhra for the four-day matches in England. Pant has been deadly in Indian batting conditions. His performances in England with bat and gloves will be watched with interest.

India’s squad for Afghanistan Test: Ajinkya Rahane (Captain), Shikhar Dhawan, M Vijay, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Karun Nair, Wriddhiman Saha (wicketkeeper), R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Umesh Yadav, Mohd. Shami, Hardik Pandya, Ishant Sharma, Shardul Thakur

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