India are on top of the table in the ICC World Test Championship after their 2-0 victory over the West Indies. However, despite the impressive show, a few loopholes remained. There have also been some selection conundrums over the time being. India’s next assignment in the format is against South Africa that gets underway in October after the conclusion of the three-match T20I series.
The squad for the series next month has already been announced by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). But the national selectors decided to spring a few surprises, some of which were communicated even before the announcement of the squad. Some of the moves can well be termed as a gamble, but the same can also pay rich dividends as the red-ball fixtures progresses.
Here we look at five surprising decisions made by the selectors for the Proteas series
Rohit Sharma as Test opener
Rohit Sharma’s Test career has been an enigma thus far. Despite his incredible run in white-ball cricket for India, the Mumbai batsman has never been able to cement his position in the longest format. The good thing for him is that he isn’t out of the selectors’ radar by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, he is now set to open even in Test cricket, alongside Mayank Agarwal.
KL Rahul’s repeated failures has left to his exclusion. MSK Prasad said that Rohit would be given a chance to open the batting. Back in 2013, Rohit started opening batting in white-ball cricket and that turned out to be a masterstroke. Sharma will now be keen to repeat the same in Test cricket. Playing the new ball in Tests is a different ballgame and it’ll be interesting to see how he does.
Shubman Gill as a back-up opener
Shubman Gill has seen a meteoric rise as far as his cricketing career is concerned. In only a couple of years after his first-class debut, he is well and truly in the national selectors’ scheme of things. The constant shows in domestic cricket earned him a spot in the ODI team earlier this year in New Zealand. And now, the Fazilka-born has got a maiden call-up to the Test squad as a back-up opener.
He celebrated his 20th birthday a few days ago and the call-up is a perfect gift for the youngster. Last year, Gill got 268 runs versus Tamil Nadu in the Ranji Trophy. His second first-class double ton came versus West Indies ‘A’ in Tarouba. He will captain the ‘A team in one of the unofficial Tests against South Africa ‘A’. The youngster has loads of potential and is seen as a future of Indian cricket.
Hardik Pandya’s exclusion
When Hardik Pandya made his Test debut in Sri Lanka a couple of years ago, he was deemed to be a solution for India’s search for a genuine all-rounder. The Baroda cricketer played without any fear and he impressed a lot of pundits. In the next year, he went to England and picked up his maiden five-wicket haul at the Trent Bridge. But he hasn’t played in the format for more than one year now.
The 25-year-old missed the Test series in Australia and didn’t get a chance even in the away Test series versus the West Indies. Now he didn’t get picked even for the South Africa. The decision to leave him out has raised a few eyebrows. After the series versus the Proteas, India’s next Test series is against Bangladesh in November. It remains to be seen when he next gets to play the format.
Kuldeep Yadav’s inclusion
Kuldeep Yadav adds the X-factor to the Indian bowling attack since he is a chinaman. The Kanpur-born has been a revelation in limited-overs cricket. In fact, before playing ODI and T20I cricket, he made his debut in Test cricket back in March 2017 versus Australia in Dharmashala. But ever since, he has only been a part of six matches where he has gotten 24 wickets with two five-wicket hauls.
However with an economy of 3.51, he has at times failed to restrict the batters. Kuldeep didn’t have the best of campaigns in the World Cup, barring the match against Pakistan in Manchester. The southpaw wasn’t picked in the squad for the two-match series in the West Indies. But now, Kuldeep has been called up for the Proteas series, maybe owing to the favourable conditions in India.
Wriddhiman Saha as backup keeper
Back in January 2018, Wriddhiman Saha’s position in the Test team was unscathed. He was going strong, but fate didn’t favour him as he developed quite a few injuries. He missed the four Test series’ in the same year- against Afghanistan, England, Australia and West Indies. In the meantime, Rishabh Pant churned out some superlative knocks, which included two tons in London and Sydney.
After the layoff, Saha was picked for the tour of the Caribbean. But he didn’t get a game with Pant being preferred ahead of him. Pant is in the selectors’ long-term plans. Saha is 34 years old and he doesn’t have much cricket left in him. He has been picked as a backup keeper of Pant. However, barring any injury concerns to Pant, it’s likely for the Bengal veteran to again warm the bench.
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