India are likely to give the green signal to fast bowler Shardul Thakur ahead of newcomer T Natarajan in the third Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, as per Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) sources.
Both India and Australia will play their first match of 2021 at the Sydney Cricket Ground starting January 7.
The development comes as pacer Umesh Yadav sustained a calf muscle tear after bowling just 3.3 overs in Australia’s second innings in the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne.
Yadav has been ruled out of the third Test in Sydney and fourth Test in Brisbane, and will be flying back to the National Cricket Academy in the coming days.
While cricket romantics hope of left-arm sensation T Natarajan making his Test debut in Sydney, reports suggest that 29-year-old Shardul Thakur will get the nod purely based on experience.
“While people are excited about the brilliant progress shown by T Natarajan, we mustn’t forget he has played only one first-class match for Tamil Nadu. And Shardul has been a seasoned domestic red-ball pacer for Mumbai.
“Shardul was really unfortunate that his Test debut [in 2018] against West Indies ended abruptly due to injury even before he could bowl an over. He has been shaping up well and might replace Umesh in the playing XI,” a source in the know of things told PTI on Thursday.
T Natarajan made his international debut in the third ODI against Australia just earlier this month, while Shardul Thakur has already played 12 ODIs and 17 T20Is for India.
The Mumbai pacer also has 206 wickets at a strike-rate of 54.1 from 62 first-class matches.
Final call on Shardul Thakur lies on Indian team management
There is still a week to go before the two sides lock horns in Sydney, and the final say on the starting line-up rests with head coach Ravi Shastri, stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane and bowling coach Bharat Arun.
“Obviously the next few training sessions will be important and that’s why the final call is likely to be taken in Sydney,” the source added.
Both sides are currently training in Melbourne following a recent COVID-19 outbreak in New South Wales.
With the series level at 1-1, can Shardul Thakur inspire the visitors to victories in the remaining two Tests? Only time will tell.Published 31 Dec 2020, 15:23 IST