Ajinkya Rahane, who was vice-captain on the West Indies tour earlier this year, has been dropped
Jasprit Bumrah last played a Test in Birmingham in July 2022 • Getty Images
Mohammed Shami, who was rested for India’s last Test series, in the West Indies in July, is also back, but his inclusion is subject to fitness – the BCCI release announcing the squad said the fast bowler was “currently undergoing medical treatment”.
With Rahul included as a wicketkeeping option, there was no place in the squad for KS Bharat, who was one of two keepers in the West Indies, where he slipped behind Ishan Kishan in the pecking order. Until that tour, India had preferred Bharat over Kishan, both for the home series against Australia and the World Test Championship final at The Oval.
Also left out from the squad that toured West Indies are fast bowlers Jaydev Unadkat and Navdeep Saini, while fellow quick Mukesh Kumar, who made his debut during that series, keeps his place.
Bumrah last played a Test more than 17 months ago, against England in Birmingham. Since returning from a back injury that kept him out for over a year, Bumrah has slowly built up his workload across white-ball formats.
He returned to action this August on the tour of Ireland, and spearheaded India’s pace attack at the 2023 World Cup, where he was the tournament’s fourth highest wicket-taker. Rahul and Iyer are also returning to Test cricket following long injury layoffs after last playing the format during the Border-Gavaskar series at home in February-March.
Iyer’s return left no place for Rahane, who was India’s Test vice-captain on the tour of the Caribbean in July, an elevation that came on the back of an excellent outing in the WTC final against Australia at The Oval. Rahane’s two subsequent innings in the Caribbean yielded scores of 3 and 8.
Yashasvi Jaiswal, a breakout star with a hundred on Test debut in the West Indies, is expected to open alongside Rohit with Shubman Gill continuing to bat at No. 3. Like in the Caribbean, Ruturaj Gaikwad pipped Abhimanyu Easwaran as the reserve opener.
Easwaran will have an opportunity to strengthen his credentials, having been named in the Bharat-led India A squad for both the four-day games against South Africa A as well as in the expanded pool of Indian players for the intra-squad three-dayer. His inclusion, however, is subject to fitness.
The selectors have also handpicked Delhi fast-bowling allrounder Harshit Rana, Karnataka seamer Vidwath Kaverappa and Rajasthan left-arm spinner Manav Suthar for the four-dayers, on the back of their domestic performances. Rana and Suthar also impressed for India A during the Emerging Nations’ Asia Cup in July, and are part of a wider pool of players that have been earmarked by the NCA. Also in the mix for the red-ball games are prolific Mumbai batter Sarfaraz Khan and Tilak Varma.
India are scheduled to play two Tests in South Africa, in Centurion from December 26 and in Cape Town from January 3. The series is India’s second in the 2023-2025 cycle of the World Test Championship, after the two-Test series in West Indies in July, which India won 1-0. After the series in South Africa, India return home to host England for five Tests, which are also part of the WTC cycle.
The last time India played a Test series in South Africa was during the Covid-19 pandemic in December and January 2021-2022. India won the first Test in Centurion, before South Africa won in Johannesburg and Cape Town to take the series 2-1.
India’s Test squad for South Africa
Rohit Sharma (capt), Shubman Gill, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Ishan Kishan (wk), KL Rahul (wk), R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Mohammed Siraj, Mukesh Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah (vice-capt), Prasidh Krishna.
India A squad for the first four-day match: Sai Sudharsan, Abhimanyu Easwaran*, Devdutt Padikkal, Pradosh Ranjan Paul, Sarfaraz Khan, KS Bharat (C)(wk), Dhruv Jurel, Shardul Thakur, Pulkit Narang, Sourabh Kumar, Manav Suthar, Prasidh Krishna, Akash Deep, Vidhwath Kaverappa, Tushar Deshpande.
India A squad for second four-day match: Sai Sudharsan, Abhimanyu Easwaran*, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Tilak Varma, KS Bharat (C)(wk), Dhruv Jurel (wk), Washington Sundar, Axar Patel, Harshit Rana, Kuldeep Yadav, Manav Suthar, Akash Deep, Vidhwath Kaverappa, Navdeep Saini.
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