Virat Kohli laughed and chatted with teammates, stood with them in a huddle, inspected the pitch with coach Anil Kumble, partook in fielding practice and attended the nets. In short, Kohli did all that Kohli does at a pre-match training session. Except, he didn’t pad up to bat.
His right shoulder, which he injured while diving to stop a boundary on the first day of the Ranchi Test, was heavily strapped. And the surest indication that he hasn’t recovered fully from the blow came on Thursday evening when the team management called up young Mumbai batsman Shreyas Iyer as his cover for the fourth and final Test match.
In Ranchi, Kohli, after going off the field, didn’t return during Australia’s first innings. He batted at No.4 during India’s response and came back onto the field for Australia’s second innings, where he mostly stood at slips. With the perceived mockery of his injury by Australia fuelling further acrimony between the two teams, Kohli celebrated David Warner’s wicket triumphantly on Day Four by repeatedly thumping his shoulder. But when the adrenaline subsided, he was seen grimacing and clutching it in pain.
On Thursday, during the fielding drills, he threw only underarm before skipping the batting session.
While Iyer’s inclusion may just be a contingency plan, it remains to be seen how much chance the team management would want to take on their captain’s shoulder. True, an important Test series hangs in balance — and the team needs him more than ever — but given the looming IPL workload and the subsequent Champions Trophy, would India be inclined to risk it?
For Iyer, meanwhile, this call-up – even if it’s a back-up call-up – is a due reward. His 725 runs in the last Ranji Trophy season were followed by a hundred against the visiting Bangladeshis in Hyderabad and a double hundred against the Australians in Mumbai. He will join the team on Friday.
Shami bowls at nets
Fast bowler Mohammad Shami, who hasn’t played for India since the Mohali Test against England due to a leg injury, had a brief session in the nets at Dharamsala. Shami played in Bengal’s last two matches of the Vijay Hazare Trophy and took four wickets in the final. Given the conditions in Dharamsala, India might be tempted to play three seamers, and Shami when fit is an automatic pick. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who has played only sporadically this season (his last match was against Bangladesh in early February), too had a lengthy session.