New Delhi: In what is possibly the first instance of a male cricketer getting paternity leave during a Test series, especially a high-profile one, the Indian cricket board on Monday announced that it had allowed skipper Virat Kohli to return home after the first Test against Australia in Adelaide.
Kohli's wife, actor Anushka Sharma, is due for delivery in January and the batting mainstay had asked for leave from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). The first five-day Test begins on December 17. However, there is no clarity on whether or not Kohli would return for the remainder of the four-Test series as the BCCI did not clarify this in the press release.
In Kohli's absence, India will be led by vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane in the remaining three Test matches, as per the established practice of vice-captain taking over the reins in absence of the captain.
The selectors did not respond to questions from IANS on this.
The BCCI also announced the inclusion of Rohit Sharma in the Test side. He will, however, be rested for the ODIs and T20 International series preceding the Tests.
Sharma's exclusion had led to controversy and left the BCCI red-faced, as the day the board president Sourav Ganguly said he was injured, Sharma turned up for his Indian Premier League franchise Mumbai Indians to play the last league match against SunRisers Hyderabad.
Former administrators and selectors who IANS spoke to regarding this said that they had never come across an instance where the player has taken paternity leave. They, however, supported the move saying the onus lies on the player and that it was natural that a player wanted to be with the spouse at a crucial stage like this.
"I can't recall this happening before but there is nothing wrong in this. I think it depends on the player if he wants to play or not. I think BCCI has done well to allow him this break," former BCCI vice-president Niranjan Shah told IANS.
Former chief selector Kiran More said that Kohli was well within his rights to ask for a leave and the BCCI has done the right thing to agree to it.
"Back in our days, we used to play fewer Tests and other internationals, and there was no IPL. So, a paternity leave was not thought of. Cricketers nowadays play so much cricket that breaks, especially for such occasions, are needed. I think this is a very positive move from the board," More told IANS.
"We have seen paternity leave given to players by other [foreign] cricket boards. Becoming a parent is a big occasion in one's life. Also, you have to see that Kohli hasn't taken a break for about 10-12 years now," he said.
The BCCI has, in the past, allowed cricketers to take a break for other matters like marriage or parent's death. Tendulkar flew back to India during the 1999 World Cup in England after his father passed, missing a game before returning.
Among other decisions, the Indian cricket board has decided to replace leg-spinner Varun Chakravarthy with speedster T. Natarajan. Chakravarthy had a labrum tear on his right shoulder, media reports said on Monday, and played the IPL despite there being a need for him to undergo surgery.
Pace bowler Kamlesh Nagarkoti will not travel to Australia as he is working with the medical team on workload management while Wriddhiman Saha, who sustained injuries to both his hamstrings, is under observation.
Sanju Samson has been included as an additional wicketkeeper in the ODI squad.
Revised Indian squads:
T20Is: Virat Kohli (Captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Mayank Agarwal, KL Rahul (vice-captain and wicket-keeper), Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Sanju Samson (wicket-keeper), Ravindra Jadeja, Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Navdeep Saini, Deepak Chahar, T Natarajan
ODIs: Virat Kohli (Captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Shubman Gill, KL Rahul (vice-captain & wicket-keeper), Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Mayank Agarwal, Ravindra Jadeja, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Navdeep Saini, Shardul Thakur, Sanju Samson (wicket-keeper)
Tests: Virat Kohli (Captain), Rohit Sharma, Mayank Agarwal, Prithvi Shaw, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (vice-captain), Hanuma Vihari, Shubman Gill, Wriddhiman Saha (wicket-keeper), Rishabh Pant (wicket-keeper), Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Navdeep Saini, Kuldeep Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, R. Ashwin, Mohammed Siraj