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South Africa v India 2023/24

Rahul’s roles and the end for Rahane? Five talking points from India’s Test squad for South Africa

Rohit Bumrah
Abhishek Mukherjee by Abhishek Mukherjee
@ovshake42 5 minute read

India named their squads for all three formats for their upcoming tour of South Africa. Here are the takeaways from the Test squad.

After three T20Is and three ODIs, India will play two Test matches on the South Africa tour – at Centurion from December 26, and at Cape Town from January 3.

On November 30, the selectors announced the squads for all three series, featuring – and omitting – some major names. Here are the key talking points from the Test squad.


India’s Test squad in South Africa: Rohit Sharma (c), Jasprit Bumrah (vc), Ishan Kishan (wk), KL Rahul (wk), Shubman Gill, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, Ruturaj Gaikwad, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Mohammed Siraj, Mukesh Kumar, Prasidh Krishna, Mohammed Shami (subject to fitness).

End of the road for Rahane?

The selectors had left Cheteshwar Pujara out of the Test squad for the West Indies tour earlier this year. However, Ajinkya Rahane’s 89 and 46 on comeback in the 2021-23 World Test Championship final had earned him a spot. They even appointed him vice-captain, though that was obviously a stopgap arrangement.

With a fit Shreyas Iyer back to take over the No.4 position and enough backup around, the selectors decided to move on from Rahane, who had failed in his two outings in the Caribbean.

… and the same for Umesh?

Maybe not, for Umesh is an unusual fast bowler. Of Indian fast bowlers with a hundred Test wickets on home soil, he has the best average (25.88) and strike rate (48). Outside India, the numbers read 38.39 and 60. He may play at home in the long series against England, but at 36, he may not tour again in Test whites.

Naming Bumrah vice-captain

Bumrah had led India in the Edgbaston Test match of 2022, and recently, in the T20Is on the Ireland tour when he returned from an 11-month injury hiatus. It is unlikely someone as injury-prone as him will be looked upon as Rohit’s long-term successor.

However, by naming him Rohit’s deputy, the selectors made it clear that KL Rahul – who had started the Test series against Australia earlier this year as vice-captain – is not a certainty in the starting XI.

The roles Rahul may fill

Quite a few, actually. He is a specialist opener, so he may fill in if one of Rohit or Yashasvi Jaiswal is injured. If the team management wants Shubman Gill to go up from one-drop to replace an opener, Rahul can take Gill’s place. Or perhaps replace Iyer at five.

Rahul has started only one first-class match as designated wicketkeeper – an emergency for the touring Indians against the County Select XI in 2021 – but barring first-choice gloveman Ishan Kishan, he is the only one in the squad with keeping experience. To be fair, during the World Cup, he demonstrated that his glovework has improved significantly.

Prasidh’s selection

India lost both their last two Test series in South Africa by 1-2 margins. After the 2018/19 tour, Mike Haysman had explained how the South African fast bowlers had exploited their extra height on the surfaces.

Rahul Dravid, a couple of months into the role of India’s head coach, observed the same during the 2021/22 tour: “It just felt like the ball seemed to misbehave a little bit more for them … On up-and-down wickets sometimes just having that extra height might tend to make a little bit of a difference, so it just felt for us the balls didn’t misbehave as much.

“Some did, of course. There were some balls that did misbehave even for us, but probably not as many as it did for them. I guess they have that natural height advantage. We are bowlers who tend to pitch the ball up a little bit more, we look for swing, we kiss the surface a little bit more.”

At 188 cm, Prasidh is the tallest of the Indian fast bowlers in the squad. He has played only 11 first-class matches – none of them since March 2022 – but his 49 wickets in the format have come at 17.61 apiece.

Just like Bumrah from six seasons ago, Prasidh, too, may debut in South Africa, especially if Shami, whose availability is subject to fitness, does not recover in time.

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