New Delhi: Team India starts their home campaign of the World Test Championship with the three-match series against South Africa on October 2. But the No.1 ranked team in the ICC Test Rankings have their task cut-out as three major issues face them going into the Gandhi-Mandela series.
It all starts at the top with the lack of form of K.L. Rahul seeing the selectors bring in Rohit Sharma as the makeshift opener. While there have been a lot of talks of how Rahul is one of the most talented batsmen in the country, his failure to convert starts into big scores has finally seen the team management and selectors turn to Rohit.
Rohit’s elevation to the top started on a poor note as he was dismissed for a duck in his first outing for the Board President’s XI against South Africa in the three-day tour game, but he has the support of coach Ravi Shastri and Test deputy Ajinkya Rahane.
Speaking on the issue, Shastri said: “I told Rohit way back in 2015-16, to start opening for Mumbai. Always felt he had the X-factor. It is always difficult, not easy for a No.5 or 6 to do it. But it is just a mind thing. If he gets over it, he is going to be a match-winner there as well, and we are going to give him time. We are not going to push him.”
Rahane echoed the sentiments and said: “He has worked so hard and if he gets an opportunity, I am sure, he will do well. We all know the quality he has — special talent. Test cricket is all about mindset and ODI cricket, you can just go out there and back yourself. In Test cricket, sometimes if two bowlers are bowling good spells, you need to respect that and come out strong and play your game after that.”
The second issue facing India is the first-choice keeper. While the team management has time and against backed young Rishabh Pant, some of the former cricketers have called for Wriddhiman Saha to keep wickets on turning Indian tracks as he is by far the best wicket-keeper in the world at the moment.
While Shastri has hinted that Pant too would be given a long rope, he didn’t specify if that would apply for Test cricket as well.
“If someone goofs up, I have to pull them up. Am I there only to play tabla? But this guy is world class, this guy can be destructive, can be a destroyer. And we will give him all the support that he needs to prosper in international cricket,” Shastri told Hindustan Times.
“Pant is different, he is world-class and is a brutal match-winner. Very few around in the world game; I can’t pick five on my hands when it comes to white-ball cricket, T20 cricket. So the patience we will have with him is a lot.”
Another area of concern will be the absence of Jasprit Bumrah. While he has been ruled out of the South Africa series with a stress fracture, sources in the team management have said that he will also skip the Bangladesh series. That would mean that Kohli will have to do without his numero uno bowler in the home leg of the World Test Championship in 2019.