Kohli and Rohit given extra time to prepare for Proteas in Tests

30 November 2023 - 19:01
By Stuart Hess
Virat Kohli won't play either of the T20 or ODI series against the Proteas during India's tour here and will only participate in the two Tests in December/January.
Image: Adnan Abidi/Reuters Virat Kohli won't play either of the T20 or ODI series against the Proteas during India's tour here and will only participate in the two Tests in December/January.

An indication of the importance with which India is viewing the Test portion of its tour to South Africa is illustrated by the fact that those two matches are the only ones in which their superstar batting duo, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma will participate.

Kohli, currently vacationing in London with his wife and daughter, and Rohit, requested to be stood down from the T20 and ODI series, which will precede the two Tests that will be played in Centurion and Cape Town. 

Kohli was the player of the tournament in the recent World Cup, but has increasingly prioritised his schedule in recent seasons and he seeks to lengthen his career. 

He and Rohit, who captained India at the World Cup, were reportedly in tears after their side’s defeat in the final of that tournament to Australia, and the physical and emotional toll of that event on both of them was taken into consideration by the Indian selectors, who agreed to give the pair extended time off ahead of the Tests. 

Other than the omissions of veteran duo Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkye Rahane, which had been widely forecast in the last few months, there were no other surprises in the Indian Test squad which will be captained by Rohit. 

Yashasvi Jaiswal, who impressed in his debut series against the West Indies earlier this year making 171 in the second Test, will open the batting alongside Rohit, with Shubman Gill, who started at the top of the order in the World Cup, set to slot in at three, with Kohli at four and Shreyas Iyer, a likely replacement for Rahane, at no.5

KL Rahul’s experience may earn him the wicketkeeper’s berth ahead of the more explosive Ishan Kishan, while it will be a toss up between Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandaran Ashwin for the spinner’s role. 

Mohammad Shami’s selection is subject to him recovering from an as yet unknown medical ailment, with the BCCI stating on Thursday that he was “undergoing treatment.”

Should he be fit, Shami, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammad Siraj will make up a potent pace trio, which did perform superbly when India last toured in 2021/2022, but couldn’t drag their side over the line in the last match in Cape Town. 

India have played eight Test series’s in South Africa, and failed to win any of them, despite having some of the game’s greatest players to call on including Sachin Tendulkar, current coach Rahul Dravid, MS Dhoni and Kohli, who captained in the last two series in this country.

With him and Rohit sitting out the limited overs matches, KL Rahul will skipper India in the three ODIs, while Suryakumar Yadav will lead the T20 unit, which will be the first one in action next week, when they open the tour against the Proteas in Durban. 

The Indian selectors have been careful about over-burdening their players, with Shreyas Iyer the only one who has been picked in all three squads. 

With the ODI World Cup out of the way, there will be more attention on the T20 series, with an eye towards next year’s T20 World Cup. While Kohli and Rohit may yet feature for that tournament, the series in South Africa offers the opportunity to cast an eye over some of the younger starlets who have emerged through the IPL, including Ruturaj Gaikwad and Tilak Varma. 

South Africa will name its squads for three series’ next Monday. 

India teams for tour of SA:

Tests: Rohit Sharma (capt), Shubman Gill, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Ishan Kishan, KL Rahul, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Mohammad Siraj, Mukesh Kumar, Mohammad. Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Prasidh Krishna. 

ODIs: Ruturaj Gaikwad, Sai Sudharsan, Tilak Varma, Rajat Patidar, Rinku Singh, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul (capt), Sanju Samson, Axar Patel, Washington Sundar, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Mukesh Kumar, Avesh Khan, Arshdeep Singh, Deepak Chahar.

T20Is: Yashasvi Jaiswal, Shubman Gill, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Tilak Varma, Suryakumar Yadav (capt)), Rinku Singh, Shreyas Iyer, Ishan Kishan, Jitesh Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, Washington Sundar, Ravi Bishnoi, Kuldeep Yadav, Arshdeep Singh, Mohammad Siraj, Mukesh Kumar, Deepak Chahar.