By Kushan Sarkar
(Eds: Adds more inputs)
Kanpur, Nov 23 (PTI) Senior India opener KL Rahul was on Tuesday ruled out of the two-Test series against New Zealand due to a muscle strain in his left thigh, a development which is expected to open up debut opportunity for either Shreyas Iyer or Suryakumar Yadav.
The opening Test is scheduled to begin in Kanpur from Thursday and Suryakumar has been added to the Indian squad.
"Team India batsman KL Rahul has sustained a muscle strain on his left thigh and has been ruled out of the upcoming 2-match Paytm Test series against New Zealand," BCCI said in a release.
"He will now undergo rehabilitation at NCA in preparation for the series against South Africa scheduled next month," the release added.
Rahul was missing from the Indian team's customary practice session, attended by almost all the players at the Green Park stadium on Tuesday.
The 29-year-old Rahul has featured in 40 Tests, scoring 2321 runs at an average of 35.16. His highest score was 199 that came against England in Chennai in 2016.
Shubman Gill was seen opening the batting along with Mayank Agarwal during the team's net session as Cheteshwar Pujara, the vice captain for the series-opener, also batted.
There is a strong possibility that either Shreyas Iyer or Suryakumar will make his Test debut and bat in the middle order.
Young batter Shubhman was expected to bat in the middle order but now in the absence of Rahul, he will be asked to play in his usual opening slot.
It is learnt that Rahul had complained about his niggle before the third ODI in Kolkata.
While the BCCI's media team issued the release after the practice session, Rahul had in fact gone back home to Bengaluru from Kolkata while Surya accompanied the team from Kolkata to Kanpur.
"Rahul didn't even come to Kanpur. He had gone back straight to Bengaluru. His case is two-fold," a senior BCCI source told PTI on conditions of anonymity.
"Yes, there is a niggle but you can't ignore the fact that he has been in bubble as long as a Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Jasprit Bumrah and Rishabh Pant. Since NCA is in Bengaluru, it gives him a chance to be at home and at the same time carry out his rehabilitation programme."
During the net session at the Green Park, Suryakumar was seen batting for a considerable amount of time. There was also Shreyas Iyer, who was seen bowling his leg breaks to Suryakumar.
Ashwin bowls with new ball in nets
Ravichandran Ashwin will be playing his first Test since June. The senior off-spinner, who is on the cusp of becoming India's third highest wicket-taker in traditional format was seen bowling with a new ball.
Ashwin has opened the bowling in Test matches for India earlier also and New Zealand team might not find it easy if Ajinkya Rahane decides to unleash him first up.
Later when he batted, coach Dravid watched his net session and also walked up to him to share some tips about his back-lift.
India are expected to play three spinners. Axar Patel, who took 27 wickets in his debut series earlier this year, seems better placed than Jayant Yadav to make it as third spinner alongside Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. PTI KHS KHS AT