Umesh and Shami will undergo rehabilitation at the NCA to try and be fit for the England series in February-March
From being a net bowler in the original tour party, T Natarajan could return home an international in all three formats, after being named in India’s squad for the remainder of the Test series in Australia.
Natarajan, 30, replaced Umesh Yadav, who returned to India after sustaining a strain in his left calf muscle during the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne. This means India now officially have only one net bowler left, rookie Kartik Tyagi, after Shardul Thakur was added to the squad as Mohammed Shami’s replacement last week. Kamlesh Nagarkoti, the other designated net bowler, hadn’t travelled to Australia after the IPL with the BCCI saying he was “working with the medical team on his bowling workload management”.
Yadav and Shami, who fractured his forearm while batting during the series opening day-night Test in Adelaide, will undergo rehabilitation at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru in a bid to be available for some part of the England series at home in February-March.
Natarajan stayed on in Australia with the squad after a successful limited-overs initiation into the Indian team. He was the highest wicket-taker across the two sides in India’s T20I series win – six wickets in three games at an average of 13.83 and economy rate of 6.91. Prior to that, he made his ODI debut in Canberra, finishing with 2 for 70 in India’s 13-run win as the lost the series 2-1.
Overall, Natarajan has featured in 20 first-class games, all for Tamil Nadu, picking up 64 wickets. His previous red-ball outing came nearly a year ago in a Ranji Trophy fixture against Railways in Chennai.
If Natarajan does make a debut in either Sydney or Brisbane, he will be the first left-arm seamer to play Test cricket for India since Zaheer Khan played his 92nd and last Test in February 2014 in Wellington.
Meanwhile, Rohit Sharma has linked up with the squad in Melbourne and had his first training session on Thursday after completing a two-week mandatory quarantine in Sydney. Though the next Test is in Sydney, Sharma travelled to Melbourne as the team will leave for Sydney only on January 4. With Ajinkya Rahane the captain, Sharma will take over the vice-captaincy from Cheteshwar Pujara, who did the job for the Boxing Day Test even though it wasn’t announced officially.