India Predicted XI For 1st Test vs South Africa: Ajinkya Rahane Might Be Axed As India Set To Play Five Bowlers
Five bowlers or an extra batter? Who at No.5 among Ajinkya Rahane, Shreyas Iyer and Hanuma Vihari? Ishant or Mohammed Siraj? Or maybe both in a four-pronged pace attack?
- Ajinkya Rahane could get drop from the playing XI for the first Test
- India set to go with four pacers against South Africa in Centurion
- The first Test begins from Boxing Day at the SuperSport Park
Five bowlers or an extra batter? Who at No.5 among Ajinkya Rahane, Shreyas Iyer and Hanuma Vihari? Ishant or Mohammed Siraj? Or maybe both in a four-pronged pace attack? These are just some of the prominent questions the Indian team management must be pondering over ahead of the Boxing Day Test against South Africa on Sunday, which will kickstart the three-match series and the Virat Kohli-led side's quest to win their first series on South African soil. Going by pure numbers in Test matches played at Centurion, pacers dominate the proceedings by some distance, which is not unusual in South African conditions anyway but the fact that top seven of visiting teams average only 25.16 since 2016 at this venue might just force the management to think about playing an extra batter.
Here is our India Predicted XI for the first Test against South Africa:
KL Rahul: With a new lease of life in Test cricket after the wonderful England series and the added responsibilities of being the vice-captain of this series in place of injured Rohit Sharma, Rahul will be one of India's most important players at the top of the order.
Mayank Agarwal: The hundred in the last Test against New Zealand is sure to boost his confidence. And Mayank Agarwal would need a lot of that to give India a good start and build a solid foundation for the middle-order to cash in.
Cheteshwar Pujara: The veteran right-hander has not at his best in last few series. There were also talks about his place being in danger but his experience and his ability to play out the difficult overs can be a key factor in South African conditions, at least at the start of the series.
Virat Kohli: The Indian captain has not scored a century in more than two years and averages under 30 in that same period in Test cricket. With all the off field talks after being replaced by Rohit as India's full-time white-ball skipper, Kohli would like to make a statement with the bat in the first Test.
Shreyas Iyer: The most difficult choice but the think tank shouldn't make another wrong move to make things right. Not including Hanuma Vihari for the home series against New Zealand was definitely a mistake but Iyer, who made his debut in that series has done more than enough to start in South Africa. What about Ajinkya Rahane then? Well, it looks rather difficult for him to get into the XI if India go in with only five specialist batters.
Rishabh Pant: Fresh from a break, India's dynamic keeper batter would be hoping to make a mark in his first trip to South Africa. The left-hander has shown that he can change the course of a match quickly but needs to find that right balance between caution and aggression in order to succeed against the likes of Kagiso Rabada.
Ravichandran Ashwin: With no Ravindra Jadeja in the series, (out to do an injury) it is a no-brainer as to who should be India's premier spinner. Ashwin, a far matured off-spinner to what he was during India's last tour here, would aim to make a difference with the ball and if India do decide to play an extra pacer, which KL Rahul has indicated in the press conference on Friday, then his batting too becomes equally important at No.7.
Mohammed Shami: India's trusted seamer in pretty much all conditions, Shami is an automatic choice in India's XI. The right-arm seamer was impressive even in India's last tour in 2018-19 but this time around he would want to make sure to make a match-winning contribution.
Ishant Sharma: The veteran seamer has pretty much reached the twilight of his career but Kohli would be hoping that Ishant must still have enough left in him to make notable contributions in the last lap of his career.
Jasprit Bumrah: The right-arm seamer has come a long way since making his Test debut in South Africa three years ago. Bumrah now comes here with a load of expectation and as the leader of the attack.
Mohammed Siraj: It's difficult to keep someone like Mohammed Siraj away from the playing XI in overseas Tests. The energy and skills that he brings to the table is second to none and Kohli would need that when the going gets tough.