KL Rahul axed after India's brutal move sparks furore before third Test

The treatment of the veteran India batter has left the cricket world divided.

KL Rahul (L) has been axed from India's starting XI after captain Rohit Sharma (R) earlier told fans not to read too much into his demotion as vice-captain. Pic: AAP/Getty
KL Rahul (L) has been axed from India's starting XI after captain Rohit Sharma (R) earlier told cricket fans not to read too much into his demotion as vice-captain. Pic: AAP/Getty

Cricket fans have been left divided over India's brutal move to drop opening batter KL Rahul for the third Test against Australia in Indore. The home side on Thursday confirmed widespread rumours that young gun Shubman Gill had been called in to replace Rahul, who had brutally been removed as vice-captain the previous day.

The home side has already retained the Border-Gavaskar trophy after taking an unassailable 2-0 lead in the four-match series. However, the axe has now fallen on Rahul, who could perhaps consider himself unfortunate to be dropped, considering the struggles of other members of India's top order.

'UNBELIEVABLE': Cricket world in meltdown over 'insane' scenes

'WORST I'VE SEEN': Joe Root under fire over 'awful' moment

Rahul's replacement is a fan favourite in India, with Gill regarded as a superstar of the future, having already made headlines in white-ball cricket and the 2020-21 Test series against Australia. However, Rahul has been an integral part of the Indian setup for years as one of the team's best batters, and as vice-captain has been one of the leaders of the side out in the middle. He's also far from being alone when it comes to a form slump, with Virat Kohli also struggling for runs.

When India listed their squads for the third and fourth Tests last week, Rahul wasn't listed as vice-captain, but the BCCI did not immediately specify if that was intentional or a mistake. Speaking before the third Test, India captain Rohit Sharma confirmed that Rahul was no longer vice-captain but insisted that did not mean he was necessarily out of the Indian XI.

"Being vice-captain or not being vice-captain doesn't actually tell you anything," Sharma told reporters. "His removal of vice-captain doesn't indicate anything.

"All 17-18 (players) are in reckoning, it's not just about Gill or Rahul or someone else but all the players who are there are all in the reckoning. As far as our XI is concerned we've not yet finalised on it.

"I would like to do it at the toss and I prefer it to be announced at that point in time because last-minute injuries and all those things happen so we will keep it a little interesting for you guys (the media) as well.

India's move to replace Rahul with Gill intensified after the 23-year-old was seen batting in the nets by Sharma's side during Tuesday's training session at Indore's Holkar Stadium. While many have described Gill as the future of Indian cricket, others insist the treatment of Rahul has been extremely harsh.

Steve Smith to lead Aussies again in Pat Cummins' absence

Australia's changes for the third Test were more predictable, with Mitchell Starc named to replace captain Pat Cummins, who has returned home to be with his mother, who has reportedly entered palliative care. Allrounder Cameron Green joins the Aussie middle order, with the visitors sticking with Travis Head as opener, following his successful stint replacing the injured David Warner.

It means Steve Smith has been reinstated as Aussie captain in place of Cummins. The Aussies need to avoid a 4-0 whitewash against India to guarantee their spot in the World Test Championship final in June.

Smith admits he's been left "angry" by his second innings dismissal in Delhi when he was bowled attempting his first sweep shot of the series. It set in motion Australia's horror capitulation from what had been a very winnable position. Smith is confident his elevation to captain will help bring out the best in him, and possibly the sort of form that saw the classy batter score 499 runs at an average of 71.28 - including three centuries - after he last led the Aussies in India in 2017.

Seen here, Steve Smith looks annoyed after getting out in the second Test against India.
The Aussies will be hoping Steve Smith can return to top form as they look to salvage something from the final two Tests in India. Pic: Getty (Robert Cianflone via Getty Images)

"It normally brings the best out of me," Smith said of the captaincy. "I'm excited about leading this week in Pat's absence.

"I know these conditions well, it's kind of like my second home playing over here. I've played a lot in India and I understand the intricacies of the game and what the wickets are likely to do."

Australia won't confirm their XI until the toss on Wednesday, but star quick Mitchell Starc and allrounder Cameron Green will almost certainly play after being sidelined for two months due to respective finger injuries.

with agencies

Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.