The BCCI announced the India squad for the final two ODIs of the Freedom series against South Africa, with the team for the crucial Test series (the first two) also picked, after the India selectors met in New Delhi on Monday. While Ravindra Jadeja makes a comeback into the Test side, the big news is that R Ashwin will not miss the first two five-day matches through injury.
For the last two one-dayers, which India need to win to clinch the series, the lineup wears a similar look, despite some obvious chinks showing up in the armoury. India still haven’t quite figured out their batting lineup, yet, with the “where to play Ajinkya Rahane” question still very much up in the air, while the lower middle order batting remains a concern.
Suresh Raina needs to find his mojo again, and has been given an opportunity to do so, with the selectors keeping faith in the left-hander for the final two matches, while Gurkeerat Singh Mann stays in the squad.
Dhoni has not played the Punjab youngster, yet, in this ODI series, but with India struggling to find the right batting balance, and in desperate need of a big-hitter towards the end, it might not be such a bad idea to give him an opportunity, be that at the expense of Rahane/Shikhar Dhawan or one of the five bowlers, as Gurkeerat can also turn his arm over to good effect.
Sreenath Aravind has been named as a replacement for Umesh Yadav in the last two ODIs, as India go for the more controlled, not that much pace bowling options again, while the latter will also be needed for the Test series.
For the Test matches – the first two of the four against South Africa – the selectors, expectedly, went with a similar squad that won so impressive in Sri Lanka a couple of months back.
Ishant Sharma, who was also in contention for the final two ODIs of this Freedom Series, before a hamstring injury put paid to those hopes, will have to wait until the second Test match to go nuts on the batsmen, owing to his one-Test match ban, picked up after the Sri Lanka series, for excessive celebration.
India’s most important bowler – R Ashwin – has been named in the team for the Test matches, which means the selectors are confident the off-spinner will recover in time from the side strain sustained in the first one-day international against South Africa.
Ashwin’s presence is vital for India, as the spinner is India’s most potent bowler in sub-continental conditions, and his loss will be a big blow for Kohli.
Harbhajan Singh does not feature. The offspinner, while being impressive in the shorter formats, struggled quite a bit in the Test series against Sri Lanka.
India and South Africa play the fourth ODI in Chennai on Thursday, before the series concludes with the 5th ODI on Sunday at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.
The Test series begins on 5 November in Mohali.
Squads: ODI series (final two matches): MS Dhoni (C), Virat Kohli (VC), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Ajinkya Rahane, Ambati Rayudu, Stuart Binny, Gurkeerat Singh Mann, Axar Patel, Harbhajan Singh, Amit Mishra, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohit Sharma, Sreenath Aravind.
Board President’s XI team for warmup game: Cheteshwar Pujara, KL Rahul, Unmukt Chand, Karun Nair, Shreyas Iyer, Naman Ojha, Hardik Pandya, Jayant Yadav, Kuldeep Yadav, Shardul Thakur, Nathu Singh, Karn Sharma, Sheldon Jackson
Test squad (first two matches): Virat Kohli (C), Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Wriddhiman Saha, Stuart Binny, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Amit Mishra, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron, Ishant Sharma.