India will be touring South Africa over the next few days and are scheduled to play three Test matches at Centurion, Johannesburg and Cape Town, before going on to play a three-match ODI Series, the last game taking place on January 23.
Here’s what you need to know about the exciting event in the challenging South African conditions, where India are yet to win a Test series.
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India Test Series squad news
Three big absences instantly catch the eye:
- Spinning all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja is out of the Test leg of the tour and may well miss the ODIs as well, as he continues to recover from injury.
- Opener Subman Gill is also injured so they’ll have to make do without him, as well.
- The third one is Rohit Sharma. Recently appointed vice-captain of the Test side ahead of Ajinkya Rahane, he’s been ruled out of the whole Test series with a hamstring problem.
Rohit Sharma’s place in the side is likely to go to KL Rahul rather than to the 31-year-old Priyank Panchal, who was Sharma’s direct replacement in the squad. Panchal is uncapped.
So, it’s likely to be Rahul and Mayank Agarwal opening, with Chet Pujara, Virat Kohli and Shreyas Iyer almost certain to occupy the middle-order.
Then it will be all-rounder Hanuma Vihari or Ajinkya Rahane occupying the final spot ahead of wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant.
Ravi Ashwin will be the first-choice spinner, with Jasprit Bumrah and Mohmmad Shami certain to play. It will then be two from Ishant Sharma, Mohammad Siraj and Umesh Yadav for the remaining spot as the other two fast bowlers.
Player to watch: Rishabh Pant
It’s been a big year for the keeper-batsman. He started it off with some outstanding performances as India beat Australia on Australian soil in a Test series. Тhen he carried on that good form into India’s home series against England, where he played some stand-out knocks in that one, as well.
Rishabh was then handed the Delhi Capitals captaincy in the IPL in the absence of the injured Shreyas Iyer and performed very well. Like Sharma, he was also rested for the Test series against New Zealand, so he should be fresh and at his best.
With the extra bounce, South Africa isn’t always the easiest place to keep wicket… On top of that, Rishabh Pant will be expected to score some quick runs with the bat in conditions that he won’t be too familiar with. But he keeps getting better, looks a very mature player these days and should be more than up to it.
The Proteas look much stronger with ball than with bat. They’ll be able to field Lungi Ngidi, Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje at the same time and can also call upon Duanne Olivier again, who is no longer a Kolpak player. Keshav Maharaj should play as their main spinner.
But there are concerns about their batting. Captain Dean Elgar is solid enough and both Aiden Markram and Rassie van der Dussen are very consistent players. Temba Bavuma and Quinton de Kock haven’t been in the best of form, while the rest of the side are pretty inexperienced, so they know they’re up against it.
Test series at a glance…
In the last year India have beaten Australia in Australia, England at home, and were on course to win a Test series against England away from home. They were 2-1 up with one game to go when the Fourth Test was called off as a result of a Covid-19 outbreak in the camp, just days before the IPL restarted.
The team are also fresh from beating New Zealand at home 1-0 over a two-game series. Which means that the only real blemish in their year was the defeat by New Zealand in the final of the Test World Championship. But that can easily be excused: the Black Caps were more used to English conditions (where the game was played) after having just completed a Series over there, which they won. And the one-off match was heading for a draw before an excellent partnership between Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor saw them home.
So, India come in South Africa in excellent form and are alongside New Zealand, the best Test team in the world.
But where they’ve really improved is away from home. India’s pace attack can take wickets when the pitch isn’t turning, and their batsmen can now score runs on quicker and bouncier wickets.
This is by no means a vintage South African side, and this provides an excellent opportunity for India to do something they’ve never done before: win a Test series in South Africa. They have the players and the form, so go with them to emerge victorious.
The smart money is on them winning the First Test at Centurion, to go 1-0 up right away.
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