New Delhi, January 1
Rohit Sharma has replaced Cheteshwar Pujara as vice-captain of the Indian Test team, which increases the likelihood of him playing in the third Test against Australia despite not playing competitively for nearly two months.
Sharma missed most of the tour due to a hamstring injury he suffered in the IPL. He has been named vice-captain for the first time in his career. He replaces Cheteshwar Pujara, who was entrusted with the responsibility for the second Test in Melbourne.
After regular captain Virat Kohli went on paternity leave at the end of the first Test in Adelaide, Pujara was named Ajinkya Rahane’s deputy for the second match. However, sources say that the team management was always clear that once Sharma was fit and able to join the squad, he would be Rahane’s deputy.
“There was never an iota of doubt about who will be India’s vice-captain once Virat takes a break and Ajinkya is elevated. It was always going to be Rohit and Pujara was just a stop-gap arrangement till the former joined the squad,” a senior BCCI official privy to the development said.
“Rohit has been India’s long-time white-ball vice-captain, so it was only imperative that in Virat’s absence, he would be a part of the team’s leadership group,” the official added.
Sharma completed 14 days of hard quarantine in a Sydney apartment only a few days ago and joined the squad in Melbourne on Wednesday.
It is still not clear whether Sharma would prefer to open the innings alongside Shubman Gill — in case Mayank Agarwal is dropped from the playing eleven due to his prolonged bad patch — or bat in the middle-order in place of Hanuma Vihari, whose position in the team seems perilous.
Sharma started training on Thursday and after the New Year break, the fully-fledged practice sessions of the squad will start on Saturday.
Sharma has scored 2,141 runs in 32 Tests at an average of over 46, with six 100s and a best of 212 against South Africa in 2019. Sharma averages 92.66 as an opener with 556 runs, but he has made most runs at No. 6 — 1,037, with an average of 54.57.
The Indian team will leave for Sydney on January 5 for the third Test, which is scheduled to start on January 7. — PTI