The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) recently named Prithvi Shaw and Suryakumar Yadav as injury replacements for the tour of England. They are likely to join the Indian squad in the UK as replacements for the injured Shubman Gill and Washington Sundar, who have been ruled out of the five-match series. No replacement has been named for Avesh Khan as India have plenty of pace options available in England. Coming back to Shaw and Yadav, the big question that arises is – will the move to send the Mumbai duo to the UK be the right one?
A bit too early?
Shaw, as we all saw, struggled on his previous two Test tours away from home. His footwork was clearly found out in the Test matches in New Zealand early last year. And, in the only match that he played in Adelaide during the Australia series, he looked like a fish out of water. Yes, he has a record Test hundred on debut, but that can against a weak West Indies on a benign pitch on home. Shaw did score plenty of runs in the Vijay Hazare Trophy and even had an impressive first half in IPL 2021. But the series against Sri Lanka has served as a reminder that he isn’t a finished product yet. Shaw twice got out in the 40s in the ODIs and was dismissed for a golden duck on T20I debut. He first needs to find his feet in limited-overs cricket and then be pushed to the Test format.
As for Yadav, it can be argued that he has a wealth of experience in domestic cricket, having played first-class cricket for over a decade. However, the 30-year-old has only just begun his journey in international cricket. He has been exceptional in the few limited-overs matches that he has played for India, making up for the lost time. However, playing Test cricket in England will be a challenge of a completely different level. So, it would be better if Yadav gains greater experience and confidence by playing limited-overs matches away from home before being drafted into the Test side.
Quarantine and COVID factors
Even if Shaw and Yadav had flown immediately to England after their names were announced as injury replacements, they would still have had to undergo quarantine and would have missed at least the first Test. And now, with the Krunal Pandya COVID-19 case, things have become even tougher for the BCCI and the Mumbai batting duo. Shaw and Yadav are unlikely to play the remaining two T20Is against Sri Lanka. Though they have tested COVID negative, they were reportedly among the close contacts of Krunal. And, given the strict COVID rules in the UK, it doesn’t seem like they will be flying off to England anytime soon.
A source was quoted as telling TOI about the development, “As it is, whether the players leave now or after a couple of days, they won’t be able to join the team (in England) in time for the first two Tests and now, in fact, even the third doesn’t look possible. There’s mandatory quarantine after flying to England and it’ll take time before they can join the team there.”
Being so, if they are only likely to feature in two of the five Tests, if at all, does it really make sense to fly them from Sri Lanka all the way to England? Remember, we are not living in normal times. If the BCCI does get permission to fly Shaw and Yadav over to the UK from Sri Lanka, it will not be an easy journey for the players. They will have to first leave the current bio-bubble and follow strict flying protocols in place to reach England. Once there, they will have to undergo another mandatory isolation, their third in recent times. They were in quarantine in Mumbai ahead of the Sri Lanka series and then again upon arriving in the island nation.
After all this, one cannot expect the likes of Shaw and Yadav to go out and perform in tough batting conditions in England. And if the Test series is on the line, they will be under greater pressure to deliver. Considering all the pros and cons, the logical option will be to send Shaw and Yadav home from the tour of Sri Lanka along with the other members. The Indian squad in England can make do with the players they have in the contingent. After all, extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.