After defeating the World Test Champions at home to become the world’s No.1 Test side themselves, India will look to continue their successful Test run in South Africa.
But before Virat Kohli looks to secure India’s first Test series win in the nation, the team management will need to answer a few questions.
How do India use their available openers?
But for any injuries, Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul are all set to open the innings for India. At the same time, India’s other openers have managed to impress. While Mayank Agarwal got a century and a fifty in Mumbai, Shubman Gill looked settled in the New Zealand Tests. In case all the openers are picked in the squad, India will need to ensure how to make the best of these resources. Both seem to be in good touch, and if the need arises they can also bat in the middle-order.
Who should the back-up keeper be?
KS Bharat impressed with his glovework behind the stumps in Green Park, while Wriddhiman Saha batted bravely in the same Test to ensure that India were able to set a competitive target. Rishabh Pant might be the first-choice keeper for India, but the question of his back-up remains. India will probably look to take only one back-up keeper (given that the likes of KL Rahul can keep wickets in case of an emergency), and it remains to be seen if they will go with the youth of Bharat or the experience of Saha.
Is it time for a middle-order shake-up?
Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara, and Ajinkya Rahane haven’t had the best times with the bat in the last few months, while Shreyas Iyer has debuted only recently. There was a lot of talk on Hanuma Vihari’s exclusion and then subsequent selection for the India ‘A’ squad. Given his performances in the ‘unofficial’ Test series, he too has staked a claim for the position.
All-in-all, it leaves the team management in a tricky situation. While Kohli has shown glimpses of his old brilliance, some of Pujara’s best came only a few months back. This leaves them with Rahane, who hasn’t done much since his Boxing Day Test heroics. If India do go with the same middle-order, they might have to leave out Iyer or Vihari.
What is the pecking order of India’s seamers?
India walk into South Africa with a pace attack for the ages. This line-up has been successful in England, and Australia, and they will hope that it continues to deliver against the Proteas.
The question here will be with respect to their fast-bowling combination. Even if they field a four-man pace attack, this would mean that India need to sit out two fast bowlers. Mohammed Shami, and Jasprit Bumrah select themselves, while Mohammad Siraj has made a very good case for himself. They might end up having to choose between the likes of Umesh Yadav, Shardul Thakur, and Ishant Sharma, and this will never be an easy decision.
Will Ashwin play?
This would have been less of a question before the England tour. But the tweaker didn’t feature in any of the England Tests, surprising many. Now that he’s made a comeback in the T20 setup, and reaffirmed his status as India’s number one spinner during the New Zealand series, the question is relevant again. His average of 46 in South Africa might not look the best, but Ashwin is a much improved player now, and his batting will be an added bonus to the Indian effort.
It will be interesting to see if the new India management play Ashwin or decide to go with a different bowler or combination.