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Rediff.com  » Cricket » Indian Teams For South Africa: The Key Takeaways

Indian Teams For South Africa: The Key Takeaways

By HARISH KOTIAN
December 01, 2023 08:54 IST
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It is unlikely the selectors are empowered to decide on T20 futures of cricketing greats Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli.

IMAGE: Will Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma feature in next year's T20 World Cup? Photograph: BCCI
 

The coming tour of South Africa could prove to be a watershed moment for Indian cricket as the selectors have taken a few brave decisions.

Have we seen the last of Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Jasprit Bumrah in white ball cricket is not a surprising question among Indian cricket fans after the trio featured in only the Test squad for the tour of South Africa.

Rohit and Kohli are both past 35 and haven't featured in the Indian T20I team since the T20 World Cup last year, while Bumrah, 29, has to be handled with utmost care considering his injury woes in recent years.

Bumrah will definitely be a part of India's plans for the T20 World Cup but there is not clarity on the T20 future of Rohit and Kohli, who both opted out of the white ball series in South Africa.

The selectors have put their plans in place as they look at the young players including Yashasvi Jaiswal, Tilak Varma, Rinku Singh and Ravi Bishnoi, with an eye on the next T20 World Cup.

Despite a fine showing with the bat and gloves in the World Cup recently, K L Rahul finds himself out of the T20 team. However, he leads the ODI team and has also been named as the wicket-keeper-batter for the Tests.

While age cannot be a criteria to judge modern day batting greats like Rohit and Kohli, you cannot expect them to feature in all three formats considering the hectic scheduling in today's time, where boards like the BCCI are happy to host a meaningless T20I series a few days after an exhausting World Cup which stretched for nearly six weeks.

As we saw in the World Cup, Rohit proved he is far from finished as a white ball player as he smashed 597 runs at a strike rate of 125, while Kohli amassed a record-breaking 765 runs in 11 matches -- the most by any player in the history of the tournament.

Rohit and Kohli are superstars in their own right -- among India's greatest players in white ball cricket. They enjoy such a clout in Indian cricket that it is unlikely the selectors are empowered enough to decide on their T20 future.

Another player whose T20 future is up in the air is Rahul, who came up with some fine performances in the World Cup with 452 runs along with 17 dismissals as the wicket-keeper.

The T20 World Cup is seven months away and with India scheduled to play around 11 T20 Internationals till then, IPL 2024 could be the best chance for every player, whether senior or junior, to stake their claim for the World Cup.

In the absence of Hardik Pandya, Suryakumar Yadav will once again lead the T20I team, which boasts of an exciting line-up of young passionate cricketers.

There were reports that the BCCI would discuss with Rohit and Kohli their plans for white ball cricket in the future before picking the team for South Africa. It is not clear if there was a meeting or if they discussed their white ball future, but surely the two star batters taking a break from the white ball cricket indicate that they are keen to give up one format to sustain their Test career -- still the preferred choice of format for players who started their careers before the IPL era.

IMAGE: Yashasvi Jaiswal has enjoyed a sensational start to his India career, hitting centuries in both Tests and T20 cricket. Photograph: BCCI

It would also be unfair on someone like young Yashasvi Jaiswal, who has amazing strike of 170 in 11 T20 Internationals with a century and two fifties, if he has to make way for Rohit for the T20 World Cup.

Shubman Gill is another young star who has performed at every level including the IPL, and he is mostly likely the first choice opener for India in white ball cricket if Rohit is unavailable.

Kohli played a sensational match-winning knock against Pakistan in the T20 World Cup last year which silenced all his critics, who were bothered about his slow starts and his sedate approach in the middle overs.

But he faces a strong competition for the No 3 slot in the Indian T20 team from Ishan Kishan, Shreyas Iyer and Tilak Varma, who are players who don't take much time to get after the bowlers in T20 cricket.

It would be interesting to see the India line-up in the T20I series in South Africa, with Jaiswal, Gill, Gaikwad in the running for the opening slot, followed by competition for the middle order slots between Kishan, Iyer, Varma, Rinku.

The experienced Ravindra Jadeja is back in the T20 team and has been rightly named as the vice-captain as gets the nod ahead of Axar Patel, who will consider himself unlucky not to make the cut in the T20 team despite some fine performances for India and the Delhi Capitals in the IPL with both bat and ball.

Also, the fact that he doesn't make the team which boasts of four spinners -- Jadeja, Washington Sundar, Ravi Bishnoi and Kuldeep Yadav -- is really puzzling. In the ongoing T20I series against Australia, he has impressed with his control going at 7.83 per over in the first three games -- the best economy rate after Australia pacer Jason Behrendorff, who has gone under five in two games.

IMAGE: Mukesh Kumar has been picked in all three teams. Photograph: BCCI

The ODI team has a lot of surprises with the selectors looking to keep everyone happy. The next World Cup is years away and it seems the time is ripe to make a fresh beginning.

Rahul takes over the reins of the 50-overs team which has several uncapped players in Rajat Patidar, Rinku Singh and B Sai Sudharsan, while Sanju Samson, Yuzvendra Chahal and Deepak Chahar have been handed a fresh lifeline after falling out of favour recently.

The four-man pace attack is quite inexperienced as the selectors have preferred to try out rookies Mukesh Kumar, Avesh Khan along with Chahar and Arshdeep Singh.

It is difficult to see Samson and Chahal getting enough games to prove their worth as they are quite behind in the pecking order in their respective roles. Rahul is expected to take over the gloves, while it is hard to see Chahal play ahead of Kuldeep and Axar.

The Test team also seems to be moving on from veteran batters Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara.

Rahane was India's best batter in the World Test Championship Final against Australia in June, but his fate was sealed after failing in the two-Test series in the West Indies. Similarly, Pujara has not been considered after falling cheaply in the two innings of the WTC Final.

Jaiswal retains his place in the Test team after a dream start to his career in the West Indies and it remains to be seen if he starts in the first Test or Gill is picked ahead of him.
Both the youngsters will face a test of their credentials against a world class South African pace attack on the bouncier tracks in the two games.

The Test squad features four openers as Ruturaj Gaikwad also got the nod while Shreyas Iyer is preferred ahead of his Mumbai team-mate Rahane.

It remains to be seen who amongst Rahul and Kishan takes over the gloves in the Test team, with both in contention for the middle order slot.

With the two-Test series expected to be played on pitches expected to aid the fast bowlers and Mohammed Shami doubtful with injury, India have kept enough covers by picking six pace bowlers.

Jasprit Bumrah, who has been named vice-captain, is back to lead the pace attack in Tests while Mohammed Siraj is a definite starter if Shami can't make it with all-rounder Shardul Thakur also in the mix for his ability to score runs down the order.

Bengal pacer Mukesh Kumar is the only bowler to have been picked in all the three teams, while Prasidh Krishna's extra pace and ability to generate bounce makes him an ideal bowler for South African conditions.

India's squads for South Africa series:

Tests: Rohit Sharma (captain), Jasprit Bumrah (vice-captain), Shubman Gill, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, Ruturaj Gaikwad, K L Rahul (wicket-keeper), Ishan Kishan (wicket-keeper), Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Mohammad Siraj, Mukesh Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Prasidh Krishna.

T20Is: Suryakumar Yadav (captain), Ravindra Jadeja (vice-captain), Yashasvi Jaiswal, Shubman Gill, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Tilak Varma, Rinku Singh, Shreyas Iyer, Ishan Kishan (wicket-keeper), Jitesh Sharma (wicket-keeper), Washington Sundar, Ravi Bishnoi, Kuldeep Yadav, Arshdeep Singh, Mohammed Siraj, Mukesh Kumar, Deepak Chahar.

ODIs: KL Rahul (captain, wicket-keeper), Ruturaj Gaikwad, B Sai Sudharsan, Tilak Varma, Rajat Patidar, Rinku Singh, Shreyas Iyer, Sanju Samson (wicket-keeper), Axar Patel, Washington Sundar, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Mukesh Kumar, Avesh Khan, Arshdeep Singh, Deepak Chahar.

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HARISH KOTIAN / Rediff.com

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