The year 2021 is about to end and Team India will begin yet another quest to conquer the South African castle from December 26. The 1st Test will be played in the iconic Supersport Park of Centurion but with no spectators.
India is now at the peak of its form and is deservedly at the top of the ICC rankings. Thrashing Aussies in their home twice to leading an incomplete series in England, India are not just mere invisible hosts but are champion travelers now. Dravid the crisis man of tough situation will be on his first foreign assignment as a coach and will be pivotal in decision-making and man-management. So what will be India’s perfect XI for the Boxing Day Test, here’s what Six Sports thinks –
The Top 4:
Rohit Sharma’s injury cost him a chance to feature this series but coincidentally presents another chance to the seasoned Ranji campaigner Mayank Agarwal to make his case stronger. His Karatka partner KL Rahul is arguable in the best phase of his career and undoubtedly is India’s go-to man across all formats. Agarwal a man with a spectacular first-class record has been on and off in his international career.
A complete player with a knack to score big, he is set to open with Rahul to give India a steady start. Pujara might not be as consistent as he used to be in the past still his caliber is no secret to anyone. A batter who can tire the bowlers all day, Pujara might look to rediscover his talisman ahead of 2022. Captain Kohli too faces a weird phase in his career. With no century in the past 2 years, expectations are high from the run machine – he has a point to prove.
The Middle-order – The Curious case of Ajinkya Rahane
Rahane is another man facing rough times. Ahead of every series a question arises about whether Rahane is fit to feature in the XI with players like Iyer, Vihari warming the bench. It’s true, Rahne has been backed by the team for a long now but this time it might be the finale.
Rahane is no more the deputy of Kohli and the decision clearly indicates that the selection committee has begun to look ahead of the Mumbai cricketer. Rishabh is sure to replace Saha as his batting prowess plus his unpredictability makes him the X factor of the team. South African tracks are havens for the pacers and India will depend heavily on Ashwin and his performance with the bat.
The Bowling Unit:
Ashwin might be the only spinner for India and the rest of the unit will incorporate the pace battery. Hardik was a standout performer in the 2018 series vs SA but in his absence, Shardul Thakur might be India’s trump card. His bowling will be under the scanner but nevertheless, he is set to be an exciting prospect ahead of the series.
The inclusion of Bumrah and Shami are obvious considering their experience, skills, and understanding of the conditions. The duo will find a fresh partner in Siraj. Mohammed Siraj is an exceptional find for India and his exploits with the red ball against Australia and England make him a deadly seamer in India’s pace attack.
The South African Team is inexperienced yet will definitely be mighty challengers as hosts. However, there will be the services of star pacer Anrich Nortje, who will miss the Tests owing to an injury.
Predicted XI: 1. KL Rahul, 2. Mayank Agarwal, 3. Cheteshwar Pujara, 4. Virat Kohli (Captain), 5. Ajinkya Rahane/Shreyas Iyer/Hanuma Vihari, 6. Rishabh Pant (WK), 7. R Ashwin, 8. Shardul Thakur, 9.Jasprit Bumrah 10. Mohammed Shami 11. Mohammed Siraj.
India’s Test squad: Virat Kohli (Captain), KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Priyank Panchal, Shreyas Iyer, Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant (wicket-keeper), Wriddhiman Saha (wicket-keeper), R Ashwin, Jayant Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Mohd. Shami, Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Shardul Thakur, Md. Siraj.
South Africa’s Test squad: Dean Elgar (captain), Temba Bavuma (vice-captain), Quinton de Kock (wicket-keeper), Kagiso Rabada, Sarel Erwee, Beuran Hendricks, George Linde, Keshav Maharaj, Lungi Ngidi, Aiden Markram, Wiaan Mulder, Keegan Petersen, Rassie van der Dussen, Kyle Verreynne, Marco Jansen, Glenton Stuurman, Prenelan Subrayen, Sisanda Magala, Ryan Rickelton, Duanne Olivier.
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