Jasprit Bumrah will lead India in the Edgbaston Test against England starting on Friday after Rohit Sharma tested positive for Covid-19 again. For Bumrah, this will be a maiden stint as captain at any level of representative cricket as he becomes the first fast bowler to lead India since Kapil Dev, whose last game as India captain was an ODI against England in Mumbai in November 1987.
Bumrah will be the second captain for India in the Pataudi Trophy, which India lead 2-1, after Virat Kohli had been in charge for the first four games, before the last Test was pushed back following a Covid-19 outbreak in the Indian camp .
“It is a very big honor. It is a very big achievement,” Bumrah said. “We did a test today morning as well. Rohit tested positive. Then I was officially informed that I was going to lead the side.”
Along with Rohit, India’s top run-getter in those four games, Bumrah was a big performer, picking up 18 wickets in seven bowling innings at an average of 20.83. A year on, Bumrah has more experience and was also appointed as India’s vice-captain for their previous Test series, at home in March against Sri Lanka. Bumrah had said then that he wouldn’t shy away if the opportunity to lead India came his way. That has come, perhaps sooner – and in somewhat unfortunate circumstances – than he would have expected or wanted.
On Wednesday, India head coach Rahul Dravid had pointed out that India were willing to wait as late as possible before taking a final call on Rohit’s availability. India’s hand was forced once Rohit tested positive again today.
Rohit’s absence will hurt India in more ways than one. Other than his leadership, India have also lost their best batter from the first four Tests, where his 368 runs were only behind Joe Root’s 564 in the overall tally. Rohit, who won the Player-of-the-Match award in the win in The Oval Test, scored his runs at an average of 52.57 with a century and two half-centuries. Rahul [315 runs] and he India solid opening platforms on most occasions then, with Rohit not only adapting well to the seaming conditions but also playing with the intent of scoring big.
Question marks over Rohit’s participation in the game surfaced as soon as he tested positive for Covid-19 on the second day of India’s warm-up game in Leicester last week. After serving a five-day isolation, Rohit returned positive tests twice on Wednesday and again on Thursday morning, roughly 24 hours before the Test.
India have experienced some instability with their captaincy in recent times. Since Kohli stepped down as Test captain in January this year, Rohit and KL Rahul were in line to lead in the format, but both are unavailable – Rahul, because of a sports hernia which was operated on this week. Along the way, Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya have also led in white-ball games, all in the past month.
R Ashwin had also tested positive for Covid when the squad was leaving from India, but he joined the touring party a few days later in Leicester after finishing his isolation, and bowled in the second innings of the tour game, taking two wickets in his 11 overs.
With Rohit unavailable now, it remains to be seen who will open for India. As cover for Rohit, Mayank Agarwal was flown across earlier this week and is available for selection the Test because he is not required to quarantine upon arrival as per the latest travel advisory.