India Tour Of South Africa: Rohit Named Regular Captain In The Shorter Formats, Virat Retained In Tests!


The regime of having different captains for different formats for which we have been writing in these pages has finally happened with the Indian cricket selectors making opener Rohit Sharma the regular captain in the ODIs and T20Is with effect from India’s tour of South Africa-2021-22 while the captain of all formats since 2017, Virat Kohli, has been retained as captain for the 3-match Test Series starting on the boxing day, 26th December 2021, in Centurion.

This move, probably under the guidance of the new Head Coach Rahul Dravid, is ideally aimed at allowing the wonder of a batsman Virat Kohli to play freely and most importantly, in view of the ICC Men’s World Cup-2023 to be hosted by India for the one day format. This could also be a reflection of the fact that Virat is yet to win an ICC Cup! It is unfortunate that Ajinkya Rahane, the hero of the great Indian comeback in Australia in January this year when Kohli left for home for domestic reasons, has lost his place in Tests as vice-captain to Rohit Sharma who is also assigned to be Kohli’s deputy in Tests. Although Rohit has crossed the age of 34, a year older than both Virat and Ajinkya, he seems to be the right choice as the most experienced senior player to take charge. As we had mentioned quite a few times in these pages the practice of the different-captains regime has been followed by most of the big cricket playing nations.

 

Notwithstanding the outbreak of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in South Africa the respective cricket boards of the two countries have decided to go ahead with the 3-match Test Series and the 3-match ODI Series, albeit delayed by a week, under a strict bio-bubble plus regulations, with the T20I Series yet to be scheduled, by announcing their Test squads late evening yesterday,. While the Indian selectors have announced an 18-member test squad South Africa announced a 21-member squad. The teams can also expect small crowds of fully vaccinated people at the playing grounds.  

 

Rahane despite his being out-of-form in the last 16 tests has been retained in the Test squad along with the inconsistent Cheteshwar Pujara which is a good move too for their experiences as specialist Test cricketers. Useful all-rounder Hamuma Bihari who has already been playing in South Africa for the India-A team has made a comeback. Shreyas Iyer has also been included for his great showing against New Zealand at home. The other rested seniors players— KL Rahul, Rishabh Pant, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami—have all joined the team. Although opener Mayank Agarwal has been included for his great match-winning battle in the second Test in Mumbai against New Zealand he may not make it to the playing eleven as KL Rahul has come back. Wriddhiman Saha has been retained as the reserve wicketkeeper.

 

Ravindra Jadeja, Shubman Gill and Axar Patel are left out due to injuries, and Jayant Yadav may make it to the playing eleven in the place of Jadeja after the first-choice spinner Ravichandran Ashwin. However, playing two spinners in the tests could be tricky decision considering the fact that most of the pitches in South Africa are fast-paced helping the fast bowlers and India have good choices available in Bumrah, Shami, Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Siraj along with three pacers already playing in South Africa being kept as reserve pacers that include Deepak Chahar, particularly if Hanuma Bihari finds a place in the final eleven. In any case, it would definitely be a toss between Bihari and Jayant in making it to the final eleven.

 


South Africa has announced a 21-member Test squad under the captaincy of Dean Elgar with Temba Bavuma as his deputy. The comeback of medium fast bowler Duanne Olivier who last appeared in 2019 is a significant inclusion. The Proteas have ample choices available in the fast bowling arena with the familiar faces of the IPL, Rabada, Nortje and Ngidi, apart from the others; they have too at least four spinners in the squad with many their batsmen having the ability to throw in a few good overs each. The selection of the final eleven would be as interesting as that of India.

 

The India team is set to leave for South Africa on 12th of this month, and everything looks good for some absorbing cricket, this Test Series also being a part of the WTC-2021-23 (World Test Championship) which is going to be South Africa’s first. The Omicron is still a scare and hope the variant does not do something real nasty. Of course, the news arena currently abounds with positive reports that the Omicron variant—mutating all the earlier variants like alpha, beta, delta and so on—may finally turn out to be weaker virus that may spread very fast, but may cause only milder diseases like normal flues as has been observed so far in South Africa, United Kingdom and other countries. However, many other experts say that it is too early to say that and it may take weeks to arrive at a decision with more and more data available. Like the continuing phenomenon of the ‘toss’ in cricket it is a ‘toss’ too in the case of Omicron for, hopefully, good results.   


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