The BCCI announced that Shami failed to pass a fitness Test at the National Cricket Academy, which means one of the premier fast bowlers in the country will be unavailable for selection for the historic Test.
In his absence, Ishant Sharma will lead India’s pace attack alongside Umesh Yadav and all-rounder Hardik Pandya.
The development is the latest setback for Shami whose personal life was rocked by allegations of improper conduct by his estranged wife in March this year.
Meanwhile, the Indian main squad requested for India A fast bowlers Mohammed Siraj and Rajneesh Gurbani to bowl at them while training to prepare for the Test.
Apart from Shami, India will also be without regular captain Virat Kohli and wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha for the first Test which wouldn’t fill the Indian contingent with a lot of confidence against a dangerous Afghan team.
Samson, who was initially named in the squad, was left out at the last minute after reportedly failing the Yo-Yo test – an endurance-specific running workout, similar to the beep test, which monitors overall fitness.
According to a report by the Times of India, the 23-year-old fell some way short of the benchmark for the Yo-Yo test which has been set at the 16.1 mark.
The Yo-Yo test has emerged as the preferred method for the Indian team in recent times to gauge the fitness level of the players with veteran batsman Yuvraj Singh famously failing the test last year.
Samson was to be a part of the India A squad which will take on the England Lions and West Indies A team in a triangular limited-overs series. However, this latest setback will do no favours to the Kerala-born batsman who has been earmarked as one of the promising stars for the future of Indian cricket.
He put in some more promising showings in the IPL this year on his return to the franchise after doing well in the Vijay Hazare Trophy and the Ranji Trophy for Kerala.
The Times of India report does go on to add that sources at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) have said that Samson was suffering from a few niggles and hence the low score in the fitness test.
Whether there is any truth in the report remains to be seen, but what cannot be denied is that this is a big blow for the youngster who has so far played only one T20I for the country which came against Zimbabwe in Harare in 2015.
Ex-Australia captain Ian Chappell believes India are well placed to win the Test series if they can expose England’s weaknesses during the five-match encounter.
The Indians take on Joe Root’s side with teh first Test starting in Edgbaston on August 1 with the tourists looking for their first Test series win on English soil since their 1-0 triumph in 2007. Since then they lost 4-0 in 2011 and 3-1 in 2014.
England go into the series on the back of a 1-1 Test draw with Pakistan but have problems of their own with team selection and form of key players including Alastair Cook an issue.
And Chappell believes that is a massive advantage for India.
“There’s a rare opportunity beckoning for India – the chance to beat both England and Australia in away Test series. England are in a state of flux after a devastating loss at Lord’s and then a less-than-convincing win over the predictably inconsistent Pakistan at Headingley,” Chappell wrote in his column for ESPNcricinfo.
“England’s top-order collapses are now a regular occurrence, which is not surprising when both opening positions are under a cloud. If it weren’t for the fact that Alastair Cook’s numerous partners have been under intense scrutiny, Cook himself would be in jeopardy.
“Two classic Cook double-centuries can’t mask the fact that in his last 29 Test innings – a period of 12 months – he has had 19 scores under 20, including ten single-figure dismissals. If an opener isn’t making centuries regularly then he has to ensure the opposition doesn’t get at the middle order while the ball is still new. Too often Cook is doing neither.”
The 74-year-old was also unconvinced by off-spinner Dom Bess, who went wicketless in the first Test against Pakistan before taking three scalps in the second.
“Smith’s (Chairman of selectors Ed Smith) other notable choice in his selection debut was off-spinner Dom Bess, an energetic and effervescent cricketer.
“His batting and desire to be involved in the contest are laudable but the early signs are that his offspin won’t threaten an Indian team bred on facing this type of bowler regularly. In one over at Headingley, Bess delivered more full tosses than R Ashwin offers up in a year, a prospect that players like Virat Kohli and M Vijay should be relishing.”
But he believes James Anderson, who will miss six weeks after deciding to rest his long-standing shoulder injury, will be crucial for England.
“Apart from the openers’ batting, England’s other major problem on the tour of Australia and New Zealand was that the pace attack comprised all right-arm bowlers of similar speed.
“Their inability to unearth a genuine pace bowler is a greater problem when they are overseas, but if the late UK summer is hot and dry, they will also need someone who can shake things up on home pitches in an attempt to dramatically change the course of a game.
“There is no doubt that the swing bowling of Jimmy Anderson will present the Indian line-up with a serious challenge, and if there’s movement off the seam, Stuart Broad will also be a handful. Nevertheless India have the stronger batting line-up of the two teams and their variety in attack could help negate England’s middle-order strength if the openers continue to fail.”