The limited-overs leg of the tour for South Africa was a massive success. The South Africans did something which they were not expected to do – Annihilate India in an ODI series in their own backyard! It wasn’t an exact demolition of the men in blue, but the result of the deciding ODI between the two teams just suggests that! Now the Proteas will move on to a far more comfortable territory – test matches. The Proteas last lost an away test series in 2006, against Sri Lanka. On the other hand, the Indians were last trounced in a home test series in 2012, by the Alastair Cook-led England.
South Africa last played a test in India in early 2010, when the Indians were the mace holders. From that playing XI, there are 5 individuals who are currently in South Africa’s squad. A lot has changed for India though, as only 2 players will be seen taking the field in Mohali for the first test. (Ishant Sharma also featured in 2010, but his ban rules him out from the Mohali test). The test series will have a cult following, as it is being contested between a side that is way too dominant at home and the other that is the most successful while playing away from home!
In order to put the horrors of the ODI and T20I series behind, Virat Kohli’s side will have to perform exceptionally well. Thus, it will be crucial to get the playing XI spot on to get to the desired result. In this article, we have a look at India’s ideal playing XI for the first test against South Africa.
1. TOP ORDER:
172.75. That is the average number of runs Shikhar Dhawan and M. Vijay put on together while opening the innings in sub-continent. The two definitely complement each other well though their styles are different. While Dhawan is the aggressor and drives extravagantly; Vijay is the more subdued one. Vijay elegantly drives while providing great support to the Delhi dasher. Dhawan and Vijay should be the first-choice opening pair while KL Rahul can surely be the reserve opener. The number three slot should undoubtedly be Cheteshwar Pujara’s. After his breathtaking and hard fought knock against Sri Lanka, ignoring Pujara will be a blunder. Against the same opposition at number 3, Pujara has a 150+ score in Johannesburg. Ravi Shastri should leave his experiments aside and do the sensible thing by giving Pujara a go at number 3.
2. MIDDLE ORDER:
The number 4 and 5 slots are booked by India’s most dependable test batsmen – Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane respectively. Rahane was recently tried at number 3 against Sri Lanka, but fair to say, it didn’t yield prosperous results. Rahane is best at number 5, where he can also negate the second new ball. The number 6 slot though is a bit of a headache. Considering Kohli’s love for aggression, an all-rounder is a must. Thus Rohit Sharma, despite his stellar form would have to miss out. Wriddhiman Saha, who had a decent outing in Sri Lanka, would have to bat at 6, in order to accommodate the all-rounder.
3. ALL ROUNDER:
Considering his recent form, Ravindra Jadeja would be the all rounder for the Mohali test. Jadeja has spun a web in the Ranji Trophy, and would be expected to do the same against South Africa. In India, Jadeja averages a mere 19.85 with the ball. In his previous outing in India, he made Australia’s best player of spin, Michael Clarke, his bunny. If he gets a rank turner to bowl on, expect Jadeja to wreck havoc on the South Africans. Nonetheless, Jadeja would have to work out on his batting a lot.
The combo of R. Ashwin and Amit Mishra did a fabulous job in Sri Lanka, as the two shared 36 wickets between them. Mishra made his test debut in Mohali and would be expected to bowl in tandem with Ashwin there as well. The two can exploit the rough patches and trouble the Proteas batsmen, who traditionally do not like the spinners. These two would have to be among the wickets if India is to win the series.
It is really unfortunate that Ishant Sharma will miss out from the first test, owing to a ban. Sharma was at the peak of his bowling in Sri Lanka and his absence will be a big blow. The two pacers for India ideally should be Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron. Bhuvneshwar Kumar is another option, but considering his form with the new ball, he would have to be benched. Yadav and Aaron both can generate reverse swing at a high pace, which can put the South African batsmen in discomfort. Their performance with the new as well as the old ball will be crucial to India’s chances.