Shardul Thakur for A tour to SA, Suryakumar Yadav included in Test squad for NZ series

India pacer Shardul Thakur has been asked to travel to South Africa to be part of the India A squad while batsman Suryakumar Yadav has been asked to stay with the Indian Test team which will play two Tests against New Zealand at home.

Thakur wasn’t part of the T20 or Test squads against New Zealand as the national selection committee had decided to give the Mumbai pacer a break after being away from home for six months at a stretch playing cricket.

Thakur will play only the third India A vs South Africa A game in Bloemfontein. The Indian Express understands that new head coach Rahul Dravid wants every player to be match ready with some games under their belt before they enter an international game.

If picked for the South Africa series next month, Thakur wouldn’t have had any games behind him, if not for the A match.

It was for the same reason that the Indian team sent Hanuma Vihari with the India A side as the selection committee felt he might not have got any Tests against the Kiwis. They thought it would be better if he got a few games in the India A series.

Thakur played vital roles in Tests in Australia and later in England. It’s his batting that hogged the limelight when he slammed two half-centuries in the fourth Test against England.

The former bowling coach Bharat Arun had raved about the importance of Thakur. “Shardul Thakur is coming along superbly. Just imagine the pressure and how well he has coped and grabbed them. Each match, I see tremendous improvement – bowling and batting. Knocks in Brisbane and Leeds were amazing, no? And he is a pretty intelligent bowler – a lovely out swinger at close to 140 kmphs and a well-directed bouncer. He is a good thinker, not afraid to speak his mind, fearless and you need players like him in a team environment,” Arun told this newspaper.

The BCCI is likely to pick the squad for the South Africa tour after the first Test against New Zealand in Kanpur starting on Thursday.

Meanwhile, there is no official communication on why Yadav was asked to stay with the Indian Test squad.

The squad already includes Shreyas Iyer as a middle-order batsman and chances of him making a Test debut are promising. It seems the selection committee and BCCI don’t want to take a chance with the players’ health, especially during COVID-19 times.

The BCCI doesn’t want to be in a situation where a player gets infected and they don’t have a replacement in the squad.

Yadav was sent as a back-up player for the England tour too along with Prithvi Shaw, but they didn’t get a game.

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