ANALYSIS: Indian cricket team spoilt for choice ahead of South Africa tour
ANALYSIS: Indian cricket team spoilt for choice ahead of South Africa tour

Photo Credit: IANS


New Delhi, Nov 27 (IANS) With so many young talented players making their mark and competing for similar spots in the side, the Indian cricket team is spoilt for choice in terms of picking the squad for the upcoming South Africa tour.

India are playing the first Test against New Zealand in Kanpur without their six regular members. While Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammad Shami have been rested, KL Rahul suffered a thigh injury, with Ajinkya Rahane leading the side. Though, Kohli will return for the second Test in Mumbai and captain the team.

The last time when India missed the services of their key Test members was during the tour of Australia. In that series, injury was the primary reason but here players have been given a break to deal with bio-bubble fatigue. However, one thing is common on both the occasions -- India have played with a winning mentality.

During India's Test series against England, Rohit and Rahul opened the innings and produced good results for the team. Now in their absence, Shubman Gill and Mayank Agarwal donned the openers' role in the first innings of the first Test. While Mayank could only score 13 runs, Gill impressed with his fifty (52).

Notably, both Gill and Agarwal have played as India openers in the past as well and that too in tough foreign conditions, before they lost their places due to injuries. Going into the South Africa series, India will now have four options in Rohit, Rahul, Shubman and Mayank to choose their openers. Interestingly, all four of them could also bat in the middle order and they have done that at different stages of their career as well.

Meanwhile, Shreyas Iyer also grabbed his opportunity with both hands in Kohli's absence. Batting in the middle order, the 26-year old hit a fantastic century on his Test debut. However, it will be interesting to see whether Iyer retains his place in the side or not when Virat comes for the next Test as he was never among the first XI preferences hadn't it been for KL Rahul's injury. And, Indian fans have seen Karun Nair getting replaced even after his triple century.

Back in 2016, during a home series against England, Nair had scored a phenomenal 303 but was rested for the next game to make way for Ajinkya Rahane who had missed out that Test match.

Iyer's arrival in Test cricket with a fantastic century and Gill being back among runs would certainly put pressure on Rahane and Pujara. The duo hasn't scored consistently in the last two years and their place in the side has become a point of discussion among Indian fans and experts as well. In the ongoing first Test, both Pujara (26) and Rahane (35) got decent starts but they failed to capitalise on it and score big.

The Indian squad for the South Africa series will be announced in some days and even if the seasoned duo board that flight, captain Virat Kohli and head coach Rahul Dravid might be forced to take some hard calls, if Pujara and Rahane don't do well in the rest of the innings in the ongoing series. And not to forget, there is also Suryakumar Yadav, who has a fantastic record in domestic cricket, sitting on the bench.

Flamboyant Rishabh Pant has been given rest for the Test series and Wriddhiman Saha is playing as a first-choice wicket-keeper. But, stiffness in his neck forced Saha to miss the action on Day 3 and in his absence KS Bharat has been fabulous with his glove work behind the wickets.

There is also a problem of plenty in the bowling department. Pacers Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Md Siraj, Prasidh Krishna and spinners Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Axar Patel and Jayant Yadav have been picked for the ongoing series against the Kiwis while seasoned campaigners such as Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammad Shami will be back for the South Africa tour after their much-needed break.

The likes of Shardul Thakur and Bhuvneshwar Kumar can also be considered for selection if required. A fit Washington Sundar, who did well on the last Australia tour, also becomes a handy option. And add to that, an India A team is already playing in South Africa where batters Abhimanyu Easwaran (103) and Priyank Panchal (96) and bowlers Navdeep Saini (2/67), Arzan Nagwaswalla (2/75) have done in the first unofficial Test to make their case.

With a plethora of talent, the selectors and Indian team management are definitely spoilt for choice and it will be interesting to see which name features in the squad for the South Africa tour.

The Indian men's cricket team is scheduled to play three Tests, three ODIs, and four T20Is from mid-December across four venues -- Johannesburg, Centurion, Paarl, and Cape Town against the Proteas.




Update: 27-November-2021