The Indian selectors finally announced the squad for the 3 test series at home vs South Africa to start shortly. Most of the team is chosen on expected lines consisting of 3 fast bowlers, all of whom done well in West Indies and 3 frontline spinners in Ashwin, Jadeja and Kuldeep of which two are likely to figure in the XI against a team like South Africa. Notable omissions are Hardik Pandya, Umesh Yadav and KL Rahul . And probably for the first time in many years in a home series test squad there are 2 specialist keepers which is an indication that first choice keeper Rishabh Pant is under trial with the more superior keeper ,Saha waiting in the wings.
With pitches expected to spin in South Africa test series , pacer Umesh Yadav is excluded from the squad . Thus he will get the chance to upgrade his bowling once again by playing domestic cricket before making a comeback shedding his patchy form.
With T20 world cup in a years time and a packed middle order in tests, Hardik Pandya misses out but he was widely expected to be in the squad as an allrounder and 4th seamer. This is a big surprise.
However the 2 most significant selections are Shubman Gill and the dropping of KL Rahul. Gill has had a couple of brilliant first class seasons, scoring tonnes of runs and has looked technically sound. Thus he is included in the team to get the dressing room experience and also be the backup opener. A test debut for him in this series is not totally ruled out.
The continued failure of KL Rahul as an opener in tests has finally taken its toll as Rahul is left out of the squad. His continued struggles with the moving ball, specially the inswing has finally taken its toll . He was actually lucky to be still in the first XI due to Prithvi Shaw’s injury and drug episode. Hopefully a long stint at domestic cricket will help him to make a future comeback to the Indian test side as age is very much on his side.
No such advantages for Rohit Sharma. He is already 31 and now finally gets the verdict from the selectors to open the batting in test cricket. Rohit was in rich vein of form recently with 5 world cup hundreds and thus with the continued lack of tests runs for Rahul, the clamours had started strongly to play Rohit as test opener since middle order spots were already locked strongly in favour of Rahane and Vihari ,both of whom did very well in the West Indies. Thus Rohit is now the designated opener in the South Africa series and hopefully should be able to consolidate his test spot finally. With the amount of talent that he poccesses ,its unbelievable that he is still struggling to make himself an automatic selection for tests. One only hopes that Indian thinktank gives Rohit a fair run at the top and doesn’t ditch him after a possible failure in only a few games. Rohit on is part needs to improve his batting by countering the movement of red balls both ways around offstump . After South Africa, India will tour New Zealand where balls move around , so Rohit will have to ensure that he is confident of tackling movement in the air and off the seam in alien conditions. However at the same time he needs to back his superb strokeplay to be a successful opener and simultaneously gives himself time in the middle to build his innings. This is probably Rohit’s final chance to make good at test level as many young batsmen are waiting in the wings.
The final squad is as under.
Squad: Virat Kohli (Captain), Mayank Agarwal, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (vice-captain), Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant (Wicket-keeper), Wriddhiman Saha (Wicket-keeper), Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Shubman Gill