Kanpur, Nov 24 (IANS) India skipper Ajinkya Rahane confirmed that middle-order batter Shreyas Iyer will make his Test debut in the first Test against New Zealand on Thursday after opener KL Rahul was ruled out of the series due to a muscle strain on left thigh.
In first-class cricket, Iyer has scored 4,592 runs in 54 matches at an average of 52.18, including 12 centuries and 23 half-centuries.
"Shreyas is going to make his debut. Unfortunately, KL is injured and will not be a part of the Test matches. So, Shreyas will make his debut tomorrow," said Rahane in the pre-match press conference.
At the same time, Rahane refused to give much into the likely playing eleven. "We are not too sure about the combination. But in India you generally get spin-friendly wickets, the ball generally keeps slightly low and slow. We expect that but not too sure how the wicket will play. We will have to wait till tomorrow and then assess from there."
Rahane noted that it was a big blow for Rahul to miss the series. But he expects the youngsters to do well in the absence of many players like Virat Kohli (returning for second Test), Rohit Sharma and Rishabh Pant. "See, it is a big blow when we got to know that KL (Rahul) is injured and is not available for these two Test matches. He did really well in England. He was in good form and played really well in T20s. Obviously, we will miss him but we have guys who can fill that slot, guys who did well for us in the past with that experience. Not too worried about the opening slot.
"We will miss all these three guys (Kohli, Sharma and Pant). But it is a good opportunity for all the youngsters to play. Whoever is getting an opportunity to bat, they will look to back themselves and play with freedom. Rahul bhai (Dravid, head coach) is backing each and every individual. This team is all about backing everyone and one another."
Rahane also quashed concerns about his own form. Since being the player of the match for his 112 against Australia in the Boxing Day Test, he hasn't registered a big knock. In his last 15 Tests, Rahane averages 25 while in 2021, the average goes down to 19.57. "There is no concern. My job is to contribute for the team. Contribution doesn't mean you score a hundred in every match. 30-40-50-70 runs at a crucial moment is also an important contribution. I always think about the team. I have never thought where I am going or what will happen with me. I am grateful and it is an honour for me to lead the country.
"Not too bothered about what can happen next. What happens in the future is not of concern to me. I am focusing only on how I can give my best at a given particular moment and will try for that only.
"Rahul bhai told us to back our game. Just keep it really simple, not to think and bother too much about it. For me and (Cheteshwar) Pujara, we know our gameplan as we have been playing for so many years. It's all about keeping it simple and backing ourselves. If we get set, try and convert into a big one. We are not too worried much. It's all about keeping gameplan simple and back ourself."