Ind vs SA: Minor tweaking can be done in the middle-order and bowling department to ease burden on pacers.
After a convincing performance in the first Test at Visakhapatnam, India will now take on South Africa in the second Test at Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Pune starting Thursday. Virat Kohli and his troops lead the three-match series 1-0 courtesy of their 203-run victory in Vizag. The hosts will now look to take an unassailable lead and put the series to bed even before the caravan moves to the final destination in Ranchi.
There is an old adage which says don’t tinker with things that aren’t broken and the Indian team management would look to stick with it for the forthcoming match. However, minor tweaking can be done in the middle-order and bowling department to ease burden on pacers. Here is the predicted XI for Pune Test.
Opener Rohit Sharma will be one of the first names on team sheet after his sensational performance in Vizag. The stylish right-hander slammed two majestic centuries to set-up an emphatic victory for India and in the process, he also has virtually cemented his place at the top in longest format, like in ODIs and T20Is.
Opener Mayank Agarwal has gone from strength to strength since his debut and his classy double century in Vizag further illustrates that. Agarwal is capable of holding his own against the very best in the world and that makes him an important member of the squad at the top of the order.
Right-hander Cheteshwar Pujara is the glue that holds Indian batting together and he showed that in the second innings in first Test. Pujara failed with the bat in first essay but showed a different aspect of his batting in the second where he scored 81 off 148 deliveries to help India score quickly and set up a daunting target for South Africa and enough time for his bowlers to bowl them out.
Skipper Virat Kohli couldn’t score runs in the first match but it was hardly needed because of the heroics of the top-order. He marshaled his troops well in the field and led India to another victory at home with his supreme tactical skills.
Vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane couldn’t score freely in the first innings and was dismissed cheaply and when he looked good in the second essay, India had to declare the innings. Rahane is one of India’s most dependable middle-order batsmen in the longest format and his position is under no threat whatsoever.
Time and time again the Indian team management have reiterated that Wriddhiman Saha is the best wicket-keeper in the country. Former India skipper Sourav Ganguly went to the extent of saying he is the best in the world. Saha’s batting credentials remain under spotlight but no one can double his wicket-keeping skills and he is likely to retain his spot ahead of Rishabh Pant for Pune Test.
All-rounder Ravindra Jadeja once again showed why he is so highly rated in Test cricket. He remained not out in first innings and hit a quick-fire 40 in the second. With the ball, he scalped a combined total of six wickets including a stunning four-wicket haul on the final day to pave way for India’s massive win.
Premier spinner Ravichandran Ashwin is one of the first names on the team sheet in Indian conditions and will retain his place in the side for the next match. Ashwin showed his class and scalped his 27th five-wicket haul (eight wickets in total) in Vizag to play a massive role in India’s win. Ashwin’s ability with the bat also tips the scale in his favour.
Fast-bowler Mohammed Shami remains an enigma in the longest format. In first innings in Vizag, he looked out-of-sorts and returned wicket-less. But he turned on the style in second innings and scalped a fifer to break the backbone of South African batting line-up. He is another player who is a certainty in the playing XI for the next match.
Fast-bowler Ishant Sharma could scalp just one wicket in the entire match as he was overshadowed by Ashwin in the first innings and Mohammed Shami in the second. However, his contribution cannot be overlooked as he put pressure on the batsmen with his tight bowling and conceded runs at economy rates of 3.38 and 2.57 respectively in two innings.
This is the one change that Team India could make for Pune Test. The fact that India’s middle-order was left redundant because of run-filled show from top-order, the hosts could leave out Hanuma Vihari and bring in another pacer in Umesh Yadav to share the burden of their two-pronged pace attack. The batting ability of Jadeja and Ashwin make this an easy decision for them if they want to go in with an extra pacer.