Two selections in the Indian Test cricket team to tour South Africa have caused diverse reactions from cricket experts and fans.
On the positive side, Jasprit Bumrah’s selection was much overdue. He has done consistently well in the shorter version of the game and will certainly be a threat in South African conditions.
He has pace, swing, control and a deadly yorker which has undone the defence of many a top batsman. If he does manage to get into the side then he will be a real asset. His wicket-taking ability is a plus point which India could do with.
The selectors have done well by tapping his talent on South African grounds where pace bowlers thrive. This will surely give him confidence and, if he does well, he will be a major asset for the Indian team in the future.
The second selection is contentious. Parthiv Patel is back again as understudy to Wriddhiman Saha. At 32, Patel does not have much of a career ahead of him, with Saha well entrenched in the team. This was a good chance for the selectors to pick up someone younger like Rishabh Pant, who is just 20, and will certainly be in the saddle within five years.
It is not that one must take away anything from Patel. He started very early in Test cricket but his wicketkeeping was found wanting. He dropped too many catches at critical junctures. But to his credit, Patel worked hard on his keeping and when called as a replacement to Saha against England last year, he did extremely well with the bat too.
Having two wicketkeepers of the same age is not going to work in the long run.
This could have been an ideal platform for Pant to stake his case if Saha gets injured. A tough start will harden Pant and if he comes out well, India will have a future keeper in the making. Though the rest of the squad picked itself without hassles, India’s batsmen are in for a battle in different circumstances.
They had simulated South African conditions in India to prepare for this tough tour. They did extremely well against a weak Sri Lankan team. However, South Africa are a force to reckon with in home conditions. The return of A B de Villiers and probably Dale Steyn will make things difficult for India.
Most Indian batsmen, barring Ajinkya Rahane are in good touch and it is hoped that they carry this form into South Africa. Rahane has been stroking the ball well but has been suffering from lack of concentration. He will need to get his act together to keep his place.
India’s bowling strength is good these days and there are adequate reserves. If they pitch the ball up instead of bowling short all the time, then the South African batsmen can get rattled.
The focus will fall on Kohli for sure. There are so many critics who believe figures abroad are a vital factor for being the best. This logic is stupid but many Indians are obsessed with it. Virat Kohli, without doubt, is among the best batsman in the world. If he conquers South Africa, then his critics, who point to figures abroad, will be silenced forever.
Knowing Kohli’s mindset, it will happen.