The T20I series between India and South Africa ended on the level terms and the trophy was shared. Both the sides won one game each after the first match in Dharamsala was washed out. Now, after a little break, both these teams will gear up for the longest format of the game starting from October 2nd. The three-match Test series will kick off in Visakhapatnam and the next two matches will be played in Pune and Ranchi respectively.
Even though they went with a relatively young squad for the shortest format of the game, the hosts have picked a strong squad for the Test. Of course, there is some experimentation on the cards as some issues are still to be sorted. However, they can’t expect a cakewalk this time as it was against the West Indies. South Africa might be a young squad at the moment with a lot of inexperience. But, they sure have some high-quality players who will look to come down hard at the opposition.
Here is what the Possible Playing XI could be for India:
1. Mayank Agarwal
He might still be in the early days of his career. But Mayank Agarwal is a really good batsman in red-ball cricket. Thus far, he has represented India in four Test matches and scored 275 runs which include three half-centuries.
But he is yet to play a Test match in India where he was piled tons of runs in domestic cricket. Mayank is an excellent player of spin and he would feel much better in these conditions. In the West Indies and Australia, he looked impressive.
Though, he has got his task cut out at the moment. With the competition for the opener’s slot intense, Mayank Agarwal must convert his starts into big scores as he does for Karnataka. The 28-year-old will surely fancy his maiden ton in one of these three games.
2. Rohit Sharma
After he scored a century in England last year, KL Rahul has had extremely tough times and failed to impress in his last few outings. Thus, he has been ousted from the squad. Shikhar Dhawan isn’t likely to make it into the cut any time soon and Prithvi Shaw is out of contention.
Therefore, Rohit Sharma will finally get his opportunity to open in Tests. This has been highly demanded by the fans and the experts in the last few weeks. While he has tasted immense success in white-ball cricket, Rohit might have never batted at this position in this format of the game.
He is usually a middle-order batsman and has played most of his red-ball cricket in four, five or six positions. However, this is his chance to make redemption in the Test team. There is no slot available in the middle order at the moment and Rohit Sharma has got a massive challenge to make the opener’s spot his own. Moreover, he also failed in the practice game bagging a second-ball duck but will still get an opportunity to showcase his skills.
3. Cheteshwar Pujara
Cheteshwar Pujara, after the highly impressive series in Australia earlier this year, has struggled in the West Indies. He failed to make an impact in both those games. In the first Test, Kemar Roach troubled him. He got out for 2 runs in the first innings and then 25 in the next.
Even in the second game, he seemed to have troubles against the moving delivery where he scored 6 and 27 runs in both the innings. Thus, he will be looking to bounce back this time around. Pujara will have to be a little watchful against the new ball or in the early parts of his innings.
South Africa has got good pacers who will surely test him. Chesteshwar Pujara is due for a big knock and will eye one when he takes the field in Vizag.
4. Virat Kohli (C)
Virat Kohli finished the West Indies tour with a duck. However, he looked quite impressive in the Caribbean islands where he scored two fifties in four innings. Its been a while since the Indian captain got to the triple figures in Test cricket.
Against a high-quality South African bowling line-up, he will surely be tested outside the off-stump. But the pitches are more likely to favour him and Kohli should be able to negate the swing factor well. He will have a huge role to play at the crucial number four position.
Moreover, he lost his ICC No.1 Test rank to Australia’s Steve Smith. Since he failed to get big scores in the West Indies, he lost a few points as well. Thus, he has got some catching up to do in that aspect.
5. Ajinkya Rahane
For quite some time, Ajinkya Rahane was struggling with his form. He couldn’t really get the big scores and there were quite a few flaws of his game that were exposed. There were also talks about dropping the vice-captain from the Playing XI some time ago.
However, he has worked extremely hard in the break that he got. That clearly reflected when he played a few weeks ago in the West Indies. Rahane seemed quite positive about his batting and displayed great skill and confidence in those two games.
He started off with 81 and 102 in the first Test where he was the Man of the Match. The right-hander did well in the following game as well where he mustered 24 and 64*. These knocks will surely keep him in a great space and will give him a lot of confidence.
6. Hanuma Vihari
A few years ago, the Indian lower-middle order used to have great solidity with the likes of VVS Laxman and MS Dhoni in the mix. However, in the early parts of the Virat Kohli captaincy era, something of that sorts wasn’t really there.
Quite a few players were tried out and some did well on a few occasions. But, there was clearly no such great deal of confidence that was there in the number six and seven positions. However, Hanuma Vihari seems to be the solution to this problem.
He adds great stability down the order and is capable of moulding his game according to the situation. He tasted great success thus far in his career and will be playing in India for the first time. Visakhapatnam is extremely familiar territory for him and he will look to do well in his home state.
7. Rishabh Pant (WK)
While he might have not impressed in white-ball cricket, Rishabh Pant has done well so far in Test cricket. He has had a good start to his career with centuries in both England and Australia. The 21-year-old averages over 44 in this format and the numbers look great.
However, he has got to realise that there is extremely high competition for his spot in the line-up. Wriddhiman Saha is in the squad and is competing for places with him. There are a few youngsters in the domestic circuit who have also made an impression.
Thus, Rishabh has got to be careful with his shot selection and shouldn’t be reckless by any means. He has got to show the intent and bat more maturely. The way he played in the West Indies wasn’t really impressive and he’s got to prove himself this time.
8. Ravindra Jadeja
Ever since he’s worked on his batting, Ravindra Jadeja has been a huge asset for Team India in all formats of the game. Particularly, in the longest format, he has shown great intent with the willow in hand. He has taken up the additional responsibility and has fared extremely well.
Ravindra Jadeja adds great amount of depth to this line-up. With no Hardik Pandya in the squad, there isn’t any sort of competition whatsoever and he will make it into the eleven without a doubt. In the subcontinent, he is a lethal asset with the bat.
With his highly accurate bowling, the southpaw is likely to test the Proteas batsmen. Many of the players don’t have a great deal of experience of playing in India. Thus, his role will be vital.
9. Ravichandran Ashwin
Virat Kohli invited a lot of criticism when he decided not to pick Ravichandran Ashwin for the first Test against West Indies. There were also rumours about a possible rift between the two players. However, it was later sorted out after both of them uploaded pictures with each other on social media.
Ravichandran Ashwin, however, didn’t get an opportunity in the second Test either. Maybe the pitches and the conditions in the West Indies might have prompted the management to go with an additional pacer. However, when playing in India, there should be no second thoughts about Ashwin’s inclusion in the eleven.
The off-spinner is literally unstoppable while playing in India. He is street-smart and works his angles really well. It’d be great to see him back on the field after a long while in international cricket.
10. Ishant Sharma
After his heroics in West Indies with the bat, the management might feel quite confident about him with the bat. However, Ishant Sharma will have to bat at number ten considering the combinations. Keeping his batting aside, he should be one of the first-choice pacers in the line-up.
The likes of Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami and him are present in the squad. But since they are playing in the subcontinent, all three of them might not feature in the eleven. For that to happen, one of the batsmen must be sidelined because the two spinners are a must. However, that seems quite unlikely.
There could be a rotation policy where each of these pacers plays two games each keeping the workload in mind. Umesh Yadav might have to wait for his chance with Shami likely to be preferred in the XI.
11. Mohammed Shami
With Jasprit Bumrah ruled out, it has become certain that Mohammed Shami will play in the XI ahead of Umesh Yadav. He has become extremely fit over the last few months and the way he bowled in the overseas Tests is a testament to the same.
However, Shami is at times guilty of not starting well and then comes back superbly to pick wickets in the second innings. With South Africa being the opposition and if they get to bat first, the pacer cannot afford a bad start and should be at his best from the word go with the new ball.
He also has the extract the reverse swing which makes him a lethal bowler with the old ball and many will be interested to see Shami’s performance in this series.
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