After an unchanged eleven in the previous match, India decided to go in with two changes in the fifth and final Test at Kennington Oval, London on Friday. While an injured R Ashwin was replaced with Ravindra Jadeja, 24-year-old Hanuma Vihari was handed his maiden Test cap as he was drafted in place of Hardik Pandya. Selected ahead of Karun Nair, who has been in the squad all this while and whose last innings against England was a triple century, Vihari became the 292nd India player to represent India in Tests. However, his inclusion raised several eyebrows with former India batsman and current commentator Sunil Gavaskar slamming the move by the Indian think-tank.
“There is no argument that is going to ever satisfy me,” Gavaskar was quoted as saying by ESPN Cricinfo. “What has Karun Nair done not to get in? I know he has not been your favourite player. You don’t want to pick him. He scores a triple hundred. You leave him out (for allrounder Jayant Yadav in Pune). He fails in a couple of games (against Australia in the rest of the series). You leave him out. You have brought him back in the team. It could be the selectors who have brought him back. The team management probably doesn’t want him. And that’s why they haven’t given him the opportunity to play in this game,” Gavaskar said on Sony Six after the toss.
“How many Indians have got triple hundreds? Virender Sehwag twice and Karun Nair once. You don’t give that man an opportunity. So what are you trying to tell him? ‘Look we don’t think you are a good player?” Gavaskar questioned further.
“All the best to Hanuma Vihari. I really wish him well. Karun Nair has every right to ask the team management what he has done wrong. He deserves an answer. ‘Why am I not picked?’ If you are going to pick an extra batsman, which they should have done from the first Test itself, and if you haven’t given him the opportunity, he deserves an answer,” he concluded by saying.
Meanwhile, speaking at the toss skipper Virat Kohli explained the reason behind the move and said, “Hardik Pandya has been left out and Hanuma Vihari comes in place of him. He is an exciting prospect. He averages close to 60 in first-class cricket. He has worked his way up. It has been tough for the openers in the series. And you gotta respect that.”