Focus on Saha and Rohit as India aim to start well against Proteas - GulfToday

Focus on Saha and Rohit as India aim to start well against Proteas


India’s Cheteshwar Pujara (right) listens to head coach Ravi Shastri during a training session in Visakhapatnam on Tuesday. Associated Press

Team India will aim to begin their home leg of the ICC World Test Championship on a high when they take on South Africa in the first Test of the three-match series beginning on Wednesday at the ACA-VDCA Stadium.

Virat Kohli’s men would be full of confidence after they consolidated their position as the No.1 side with a 2-0 series whitewash in West Indies, which also saw them earn their first points in the WTC. They would go into the series as undeniable favourites considering their enviable record at home since 2012-13. Ever since the West Indies series which saw legendary batsman Sachin Tendulkar hang his boots, they’ve won each of their 10 series -- the joint highest by any team on their home soil.

However, the upcoming series against the Proteas will not be an easy one. The quality of the South African side, despite their inexperience, was visible in the T20I series which ended in a draw. And with the likes of Faf du Plessis coming into the line-up, the hosts can be rest assured to face a stiff competition from the Proteas.

Kohli will not have the services of his premier pacer Jasprit Bumrah as the latter has been ruled out because of a stress fracture. However, the No. 1 ranked side will still have the services of Ishant Sharma and Mohammad Shami, who have been in great form in the last two years.

But, the biggest talking point of the series —without a doubt — will be Rohit Sharma, who has been given an opportunity to cement his place in the Test side. Rohit will be batting alongside Mayank Agarwal at the top of the order.

The Indian team management has also decided to give Wriddhiman Saha another opportunity as the 33-year-old has been tasked to keep the wickets in place of Rishabh Pant.

Meanwhile, Kohli has a chance of joining batting legends Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid when India begin series with the first rubber. Till date, only Tendulkar, Dravid and Sehwag have scored 1000 or more runs against South Africa in Tests, and Kohli needs 242 runs to join them. Kohli currently has 758 runs against the Proteas in nine Test matches.

On the other hand, South Africa would go into the series with some confidence after their winning finish to the T20I series that helped them earn a 1-1 draw after the first game was washed off. The visitors had a horrid time when they last toured India in 2015 as they had lost three of the four Tests they played. And in the upcoming series, things appear even more difficult as they lack experience, with Dale Steyn and Hashim Amla retiring. However, they would be buoyed by the performance of Aiden Markram, who scored a fluent century in the practice game against Board President’s XI.

While skipper Faf Du Plessis and Dean Elgar will provide them with the much-needed confidence with the bat, the bowling unit seems well-rounded with the return of Philander and Lungi Ngidi, and left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj who will be joining forces with Kagiso Rabada in their attempt to make inroads into the strong Indian batting line-up.

Former India cricketer Gautam Gambhir has also backed Rohit as the Indian opener and felt he can make a mark in the upcoming Test series.

Gambhir said that he is not too worried about Rohit’s failure in the warm-up game in Vizianagaram.

“It is a fantastic opportunity for Rohit Sharma to announce himself as a Test opening batsman. I am not looking too deep into his two-ball duck in the practice game,” Gambhir wrote in a column for Times of India. “Besides, it will be disastrous to shuffle around Rohit if he doesn’t succeed in this series. We should remember that he is a makeshift opening batsman.

“His success as an opening batsman in white-ball cricket can’t guarantee equally good returns in Test matches,” he added.



India: Virat Kohli (Capt), Ajinkya Rahane (vc), Rohit Sharma, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Hanuma Vihari, R Ashwin, R Jadeja, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Ishant Sharma, Md Shami

South Africa: Faf du Plessis (c), Temba Bavuma (vc), Theunis de Bruyn, Quinton de Kock (wk), Dean Elgar, Zubayr Hamza, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Senuran Muthusamy, Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje, Vernon Philander, Dane Piedt, Kagiso Rabada, Rudi Second

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