Indian squad to South Africa – a look ahead

The BCCI has announced the squad for the short visit to South Africa, which is finally going ahead after much speculation. The selectors were originally supposed to choose the team on November 24 but decided to postpone it probably to have a look at the present round of matches in the Ranji Trophy as well as assess the form of the cricketers participating in the one day series against the Windies. The squads that have been chosen are more or less settled with a couple of surprises such as the return of Zaheer Khan. Now for the team, here is what can be expected from the members who will fly to South Africa to battle with one of the finer teams going around in world cricket:

MS Dhoni: As a captain this will be a tough assignment considering the conditions in South Africa, the opponent’s quality and overall experience of the team. This is also the first proper test of the team’s skill and mental fortitude after the Tendulkar era. A lot will depend on how well Dhoni performs as he is now the most experienced member of the test team.

Murali Vijay: He knows that Gautam Gambhir has been piling on the runs in Ranji Trophy and it could be a matter of time before he makes it back to the national team. So, he will need to score a lot of runs so that the team gets the good starts in the tests and can achieve positive results.

Shikhar Dhawan: He is a left-handed version of Sehwag in many ways, especially in his swashbuckling attitude even when confronted by the best bowlers. He shall need to play his natural game but also be prepared to bide time early on since South Africa have the finest bowling attack in world cricket at the moment.

Cheteshwar Pujara: He will need to play the role that Rahul Dravid used to perform when he was around. There is a good chance that he may have to walk in early in an innings or two and may have to hold the batting together.

Virat Kohli: He is now one of the more experienced batsmen in the Indian team and in tests will have to match up to his exceptional performances in the one-dayers. He has a big responsibility ahead of him and one only hopes that he attains this level on this rather tough tour.

Rohit Sharma: He could be promoted up the order from this test series onwards and he will have to bat with the same composure that he showed against the West Indies at home. The responsibility is infinitely tougher given the marked difference between the respective qualities of the South African and West Indian attacks but one expects him to do well after how he has performed in the opening couple of tests.

Ajinkya Rahane: He may well be playing his second test over here if India decides to go in with 6 specialist batsmen. He has scored mountains of runs in first class cricket and will need to translate a substantial amount of that promise to his test career as well.

R Ashwin: He could be the sole spinner in this series and will have to keep a calm head on unresponsive pitches. He may also need to play a role with the bat especially in the test matches.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar: The pitches in South Africa will be to his liking and he should perform well over there and like Ashwin he may have a role to play with the bat too.

Umesh Yadav: He has not been a regular in the first team in the last few months owing to the emergence of new bowlers like Mohammed Shami. However, given the quick nature of the pitches in South Africa he could get a look in during the one day series if not the tests.

Mohammed Shami: Right now he is the best quick bowler going around in India and will be spearheading the bowling attack in South Africa as well where his ability to find reverse swing at good pace could come in handy.

Ravindra Jadeja: His is a strange selection for the tests considering it is unlikely he will play any of the matches unless Dhoni decides to have 5 specialist bowlers. He will, however, have an important role to play in the one day games.

Zaheer Khan: He has been taking a lot of wickets in domestic cricket and his regained his previous fitness levels. Considering the wealth of knowledge at his disposal and his record in South Africa, especially against Graeme Smith, he could be a certainty to start in the tests.

Ambati Rayudu: This tour will be a good exposure for him even after considering the fact that he may not get to play any of the matches. He is being regarded as an important part of the middle order going ahead and this tour will help him to get acclimatized to the national team even more.

Wriddhiman Saha: He will be providing cover for MS Dhoni but it is unlikely that he will get much game time in the series.

Ishant Sharma: He has been breathing fire for Delhi ever after he has been left out of the Indian team. Given the nature of the pitches on offer, he may well form a part of the pace attack in all the matches as the third seamer.

Pragyan Ojha: It is highly unlikely that he will get to play a role until and unless Ashwin is unable to play owing to some reason or the other.

Suresh Raina: He will lend some much needed experience to the middle order in the one day games. One feels that he may have been given a run in the tests at the number 6 spot.

Yuvraj Singh: His recent form has been patchy to say the least and he will need to pull up his socks fast if he wants to be in the team 2015 World Cup. He may not get a bigger stage than this tour to make an emphatic statement.

Mohit Sharma: He may not be able to play any of the one day matches if all the other seam bowlers are fit. However, if he is chosen he can play a crucial role with his decent line and length as well as changes of pace.

Amit Mishra: He is a decent bowler in any format of the game but unfortunately he may not get a game if everything goes right for the team.

The only area of problem for this team would be the complete lack of experience in the batting and that is where Gambhir may have come in handy. However, if Dhoni did not want to play him it would have been to insulting leave out a player of his caliber from the first team and still have him in the squad and so in that way this non selection may be justified.