The team has been battling it out in their den for aeons; conquering rivals and banishing them rather mercilessly. In their ascent to the summit, the boulders have been dispatched away unceremoniously and such has been their domination that a victory is almost guaranteed in every battle that is fought. The runs are notched up and the wickets snatched but all eyes remain firmly fixed on a greater challenge. The monotony of yet another easy win sweeps in and one twitches for something more exciting; more adventurous.
After a long, long season of playing Test cricket at home and in the subcontinent, the Indian cricket team is ready to embark on their first “proper” tour overseas for the first time since 2015, leaving aside the trip to West Indies. Much has changed since the last tour Down Under, where Virat Kohli has been thrust into the Test captaincy after MS Dhoni retired midway. From barely being able to win a Test match overseas to occupying the numero uno, the Test team has undergone radical changes in the way the team has chartered out its plan to move forward.
The first glimpse of that was on display when the Indian selection panel got down picking up the 17-member Indian squad that will be touring South Africa early next year. With the inclusion of Jasprit Bumrah in the squad, the team management has gone in with five specialist seamers and an all-rounder in Hardik Pandya, which is a stark contrast from the previous occasions when an Indian fast bowler was hardly given the respect he deserved; his skills overlooked for the more famed spinners.
Bumrah edged out Kuldeep Yadav for a spot in the final seventeen and while a tour to South Africa will further elevate his experience in conditions akin to his liking, the debate over Kuldeep Yadav’s exclusion hardly died down.
Perfect squad for SA tests and glad @Jaspritbumrah93 makes the test team.
If the fast bowlers can remain fit, this team can be competitive.
— Boria Majumdar (@BoriaMajumdar) December 4, 2017
Yes, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja are India’s number one and two in the spinning unit but we hardly need to look beyond the figures to consider Yadav’s selection. While Ashwin raced away to 300 wickets in the Test matches against Sri Lanka, what is worth noting is that only 84 of those wickets have been taken abroad. 38 of the 84 have been in Sri Lanka and more often than not, he has been cast aside for Jadeja. Ashwin’s average can be attributed to his lack of chances given in Test matches abroad, but a quick look at his ODI numbers- an average of 42.78 in 42 matches, which shoots up to 91 in Australia, reveals his effectiveness, or the lack of it, in alien conditions.
Going by past experiences, left-hander Jadeja will be the first choice spinner in the squad but with an average of 36.82 when playing away from home, his performances also have not been staggering.
That brings in Yadav. Being an orthodox wrist spinner and a chinaman, his presence would have provided the team with an array of spinners. With Bumrah being selected in the squad due to the variety he provides, Yadav’s lack of selection based on the same principle is baffling. He mixes the googly and the chinaman very well and with similar wrist positions for both deliveries, he is able to deceive the batsman with his guile and unpredictability.
Ashwin, on the other hand, is a finger-spinner like Jadeja, and he covers his overs with the off-spin, the carrom ball and the straighter ball. Against the right-handers, he ceases to be at his effective best and after a point, he starts bowling the same predictable line in conditions that hardly offer assistance.
#kuldeep. Wished to see kuldeep yadav in test team. They forgot his perfm in dharamshala. No wrist spinner in team, 2 finger spinners. In SA aswin ansmd Vijay r same bowlers.
— shiva (@sovannano_shiva) December 5, 2017
In the two matches that Yadav has played, he has picked up nine wickets and even though his lack of experience can be argued for his non-selection, it would have been better to go in with players that offer options to the skipper. If the pitch is greener, either of Ashwin or Jadeja will play and Kuldeep, in all probability would not have received a chance but if the pitch was placid and two spinners were needed, Jadeja and Kuldeep could have proved to be more threatening.
Bumrah, on the other hand, is not expected to get a game with Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammad Shami, Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav all gaining precedence over him. The talks of his selection have been mixed, with a part of the cricketing realm believing that bowling long spells if he plays without wickets would hamper his morale and the other believing that the experience gained will boost his performance in the 2019 World Cup in England.
The rest of the side automatically select themselves and leading up to the first game, it will be interesting to see the choices Kohli makes while fielding the final eleven. A dilemma arises for the opening roles, with Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul all in good nick. Ajinkya Rahane’s prolonged lack of runs seems a worry and whether he can be pipped by Rohit Sharma or finally come good in seaming conditions, where he has traditionally scored runs is keenly awaited.
The pace bowling department is further strengthened with Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s current form and his Yorkers, wide Yorkers, slower and knuckleballs through the air gives a hint of a series which will finally break the monotony that meeker contests had been offering.
Indian squad for three Tests versus South Africa:
Virat Kohli (Captain), Lokesh Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (vice-captain), Rohit Sharma, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Wriddhiman Saha (wicketkeeper), Parthiv Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Burmah, Hardik Pandya.