The Indian team management has a difficult choice to make on who should replace Shami in the Test squad. Thakur, who plays for Mumbai, is the most experienced seamer among the reserves, with 206 wickets at an average of 28.55 in first-class cricket. Natarajan, a left-arm seamer, forced his way into India’s limited-overs squads for the Australian tour on the back of his impressive performances in the IPL for Sunrirsers Hyderabad. In first-class cricket, Natarajan, who represents Tamil Nadu, has limited experience having picked up 64 wickets in 20 matches at 27.03.
Twenty-year-old Tyagi was part of the India Under-19 side that made the World Cup final in South Africa earlier this year. A right-arm fast bowler, Tyagi played for the Indians in the first warm-up match against Australia A recently, going wicketless. He has played two matches for Uttar Pradesh in the Ranji Trophy, picking up three wickets.
The Ishant Sharma question
Shami’s injury might also force the selectors and the team management to reflect on their decision to not to include Ishant Sharma in the Test squad despite him being declared fit by the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in November.
Sharma, who picked up an injury during the IPL while playing for the Delhi Capitals, went to the NCA in Bengaluru in September and was ruled fit around November 19. However, in its assessment report to the BCCI and team management, the NCA noted that Sharma would need to build on his bowling workload in order to be completely fit to be selected for the Test series.
In his first media briefing on the eve of the Australia tour, in November, even Kohli wondered why Sharma was not completing his rehab with the rest of the squad which would have kept him in contention for the Test series.
It is understood the BCCI wanted to ensure Sharma was completely fit and ready in the long-term as India are scheduled to play a four-match Test series against England at home soon after the Australia tour. India will then tour England for another five-Test series in mid-2021.
On November 26, the BCCI said although Sharma had “completely recovered” from the side strain he sustained during the IPL, he “is building up his workload in order to achieve Test-match fitness” and he was “ruled out” of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.