India should not take a chance with Bhuvneshwar Kumar even if he proves his fitness

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Out on the sidelines: Bhuvneshwar Kumar.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar is almost guaranteed to succeed in England. His control, swing and consistency make him as likely as James Anderson to pick up wickets in England with the red ball.

But given his poor fitness record over the last few months, the Indian management should not risk him for the final Test against England at The Oval, as is being speculated. As things stand, he has not been included in the squads for the final two Tests and has been asked to prove his match fitness in the quadrangular series in India where he will play for India B against South Africa A.

The 28-year-old seam bowler aggravated his lower back injury during the final ODI against England in July. Before that, he missed at least four IPL games due to the injury and did not play the Nidahas T20 Trophy or the one-off Test against Afghanistan.

And despite the time off, Bhuvneshwar’s back hasn’t healed properly. He looked ordinary during the three T20s and ODI and one can imagine what a less-than fit Bhuvneshwar can be like over five days in a Test.

India are fighting their way back into the Test series and they did that by battering England with relentless pace coupled with movement off the pitch. Jasprit Bumrah consistently bowled at high pace in the third Test at Trent Bridge which India won by 203 runs.

He was given great support by Ishant Sharma and Hardik Pandya and although Mohammed Shami was off colour, his pace and intent has been right up there.

So why would you even think of breaking up that pack and bringing in a player who might break down in the middle of the match with possibly the series on the line?

The Indian team’s fitness management has been sub par this year. Wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha was recovering from a finger fracture and ended up aggravating a mild shoulder injury.

Bhuvneshwar was rushed back from injury to play for Sunrisers Hyderabad in the IPL and that has undoubtedly had a deleterious impact. Even if the seamer bowls well in one one-day match this week, it does not mean he is ready for a Test in England.

The current bunch of quicks that India have are all operating at the top mark. If India manage to avoid defeat in Southampton or even win it, all pacers should retain their spots in the team for the final match. Bhuvneshwar should not be rushed back as the Indians already tried that in the third ODI against England and failed miserably, with wicket-keeper MS Dhoni standing up to the stumps to him at one stage.

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KL Rahul watches Arsenal win at Emirates Stadium, shows off his footballing skills

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KL Rahul (l) at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday. Image: KL Rahul/Instagram.

India batsman KL Rahul is enjoying a well-deserved break after playing his part in winning the third Test against England at Trent Bridge.

Rahul starred in two fifty-plus stands for the opening wicket in the third Test and also snared seven catches at slip as India pulled one back after losing the first two Tests.

The fourth Test of the series starts at Southampton on Thursday and Rahul enjoyed some time away from cricket.

Rahul, accompanied by fast bowler Umesh Yadav, visited the Emirates Stadium on Saturday to watch Arsenal take on West Ham in the Premier League.

Rahul not only got to watch the game but also met Danny Welbeck. In one of the posts, Rahul and Umesh can be seen showing off their footballing skills.

More pics and video below.

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India's Mayank Agarwal joins Pakistan's Fawad Alam in 'unwanted' list

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Mayank Agarwal (l) and Fawad Alam.

There is a story about the great West Indies team of the 1970s and 80s. That team was so full of talented players that picking any XI meant keeping a top class player on the bench.

Most players picked themselves and the fight would generally be for one or at the most two spots. But with so many waiting in the wings, what does the captain do? The story, or joke, is that the captain would pick the better looking player.

Whether or not that happened during the golden age of West Indies cricket is not the issue here. Maybe there is some truth to the notion that some players miss out simply because they have the wrong face.

You find it funny? Then what other reason can one come up with to justify the continued non-selection of Indian batsman Mayank Agarwal?

The Karnataka batsman has piled on the runs in the domestic cricket but he is yet to get a break at the international level. When the squad for the final two Tests against England was picked, it was hoped that a heavy scorer like Agarwal would get a look in, However, the Indian selectors picked Under-19 World Cup winner Prithvi Shaw and Hanuma Vihari.

Agarwal scored more than 2,000 runs in the domestic circuit in the recent 2017/18 season – a record in Indian cricket. He is averaging a shade under 50 after 42 first-class matches and scored a first-class double century against South Africa ‘A’ and a List A ton for India ‘B’ team this month alone.

But it wasn’t enough to clinch selection. His fate seems similar to that of Pakistan batsman Fawad Alam.

For the best part of a decade, the left-handed Fawad has been one of the best performing batsmen in first-class cricket with more than 10,000 runs at an average of 55. However, he hasn’t played for Pakistan in Tests since 2009, ODIs since 2015 and T20s since 2010. Not only that, he was even dropped from the new central contracts list.

So people just have rotten luck.

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