India vs England – Rahul Dravid says KL Rahul won’t keep wickets in the series


India are expecting the pitch for the first Test against England in Hyderabad to offer turn, but the question is how much? Two days out from the start of the game, it looked like the good length area for the spinners at either end was drier than the other parts of the surface.

“Hard one to say,” head coach Rahul Dravid said on Tuesday. “Just have a look once it starts and figure it out. It looks a good one from what I’ve seen. May spin a little bit. How quickly and how fast, I’m not sure. But might spin a little bit certainly as the game goes on.”

It is in response to the way pitches in the subcontinent might play that India will be opting for a specialist keeper for all five Tests.

“[KL] Rahul will not be playing as a wicketkeeper in this series,” Dravid said. “I think we were quite clear about that with the selection itself. We had picked two other wicketkeepers. Obviously Rahul did a fantastic job for us in South Africa and really played a big part in us drawing that series. But considering It’s five Test matches and playing in these conditions, we felt we would go with another keeping option, considering the weather, considering the conditions. So obviously it’s a selection toss-up between the two other keepers that we have.”

That’s KS Bharat, who kept in all four Tests of India’s most recent home series, against Australia in February and March 2023, and Dhruv Jurel, the uncapped 22-year old from Uttar Pradesh. On Tuesday afternoon, Jurel was at the ground, paired with the slip cordon – Rahul, Shubman Gill, Yashasvi Jaiswal and Shreyas Iyer – taking catching drills for the best part of half an hour. At the same time, off to the right of the entrance to the stadium, Bharat was in the nets being tested by R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. Rohit Sharma was at the adjacent one and was seen helping Bharat out over the course of the session.

England arrive on the back of a handsome Test record under Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum, with 13 wins in their last 18 matches, playing attack-first-ask-questions-later kind of cricket. And there is a lot of interest around whether the Bazball method will work against India in India.

“They’ve played really well,” Dravid said. “It’s certainly been exciting to watch them play and they’ve had success playing like that. So why wouldn’t you play like that?

“But we know it’s going to be a challenge for them in these conditions as well. These are conditions that we know very well. We’ve got a lot of experience in our attack. As a coach, I’m looking forward to how our boys respond because I know that we’ll be put under pressure and I’m really hopeful that we respond positively.”

England are under no illusions. They’re happy to deal with whatever the Hyderabad pitch might throw at them.

“We discussed the pitch but I wouldn’t say that we discussed it at length or worry about it,” fast bowler Mark Wood said on Tuesday. “We know, again, I know how good India are but we have enough self-belief in our group that we can do something special.

“It’s no good coming here and rolling over thinking, ‘Oh the pitch is going to do all the work’ or ‘It’s going to be tough because the pitches are not what we’re used to.’ We have to find a way and that will be what we’ll try and do in the game. We’ll adapt, we’ve got a captain that always wants to take the game forward so it should make for an entertaining series.”

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