Team India suffered a 72 run loss against South Africa in the first Test of the series at Cape Town. Though the Indian bowling kept the team in the hunt, the batting failed to live up to their standards and couldn’t cope up with the Proteas pace attack.
The matter was complicated further by some bizarre selection decisions made by Indian team management. Jasprit Bumrah was given a debut in place of the experience Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav and Rohit Sharma were preferred over Ajinkya Rahane in the middle order.
Though Bumrah justified his selection with a more than good bowling performance in the second innings; Rohit Sharma failed to do so, as he was uncomfortable against the seam and swing of South African pacers. Virat Kohli had justified picking Rohit over Rahane, by saying that Rohit had a better recent record in Tests; overlooking the experience and record of Rahane in overseas Tests.
Now the caravan moves onto Centurion for the second Test and India must get its selection choices correct, if they wish to win the Test and equalize the series.
KL Rahul must replace Shikhar Dhawan at the top. Dhawan looked stunned by the pace and was not adept to handle the bounce generated by the South African pacers. Next change should come behind the stumps, as Parthiv Patel must come in for Wriddhiman Saha.
Given Saha took 10 catches in the first Test match at Cape Town; he was an utter failure with the bat down the order. Even the management didn’t show confidence in him as they sent R Ashwin and Hardik Pandya before him in the batting order. Saha was dismissed LBW for a duck by Dale Steyn in the first innings and was dismissed in the same manner by Rabada in the second innings for 8 runs. Though a dodged player, Saha lacks the technique to handle the extreme pace of Proteas bowling attack.
Parthiv Patel has proved that he plays pace bowling better than spinners. Parthiv has improved his keeping and has become safer than before. He can easily keep wickets on the bouncy pitches of South Africa and bat even better, as his technique is adapted to playing on such pitches, something he has shown in Australia, England and against the likes of Shoaib Akhtar.
The last and much-needed change in the Indian team is the return of Ajinkya Rahane in the middle order. Though Rohit Sharma is in form, he failed to adapt to the bounce and seam of Cape Town wicket, scoring 11 and 10 in the two innings. The talented Rohit Sharma is too much of a risk taker to survive against quality pace bowling and someone with a tighter technique like Rahane are needed to negotiate the pace and seam in foreign conditions.
India has a good chance to draw equal in the Centurion Test, only if they are willing to make the necessary changes and go with the players suited for the conditions, instead of relying on the element of surprise.
Proposed Indian playing XI:
KL Rahul, M Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (C), Ajinkya Rahane, Parthiv Patel (WK), Hardik Pandya, R Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohd Shami