India have come under massive criticism concerning the team selection following their 72-run defeat against South Africa in the Newlands Test. However, on a positive note, the side now has good knowledge about their strengths and weaknesses and could line-up accordingly in the next match.
Murali Vijay - After a strong comeback against Sri Lanka following his long injury break, Vijay looked quite sharp with two centuries. Unfortunately, all the hype that was created following India’s domineering performances last year has drowned in the first game itself. The Tamil Nadu batsman was dismissed for petty knocks of 1 and 13 in the two innings as he was put down by Vernon Philander on both the occasions. He will be wary of the bowler this time.
KL Rahul - KL Rahul has found numerous advocates following Shikhar Dhawan’s dismal performance in the first match. The southpaw scored 16 on both the innings and for all his early fireworks, which gave him the nod ahead of Rahul, he was found guilty of giving his wicket cheaply on both occasions. Rahul is a better player technically having mastery on stroke play and
Cheteshwar Pujara - The Saurashtra batsman is expected to be the lynchpin of India’s batting in the foreign tours given his quality. His failure to cope on fast tracks was forgiven the last time when India toured overseas, which ended with MS Dhoni stepping down from captaincy. Yet another run like that could pretty much signal the end of his career away from home. Despite starting well in the first innings, Pujara failed to convert it into a big score and was dismissed for 26. His second innings was all the more terrible although he couldn’t really do much about the delivery by Morne Morkel. He will look to make amends for it this time around.
Virat Kohli - This year will be the toughest test for the Indian captain and he has already got a measure of it in the first Test. After getting out cheaply in the first innings, Kohli was looking good in the second one before he gave away his wicket poorly to Philander. However, apart from Hardik Pandya, Kohli has been the only batsman who looked in control to negotiate the South African bowlers well.
Ajinkya Rahane - Like Rahul, Rahane has been a strong suggestion by critics after the defeat in the first Test. Though Virat Kohli’s argument of choosing Rohit Sharma over Rahane was based purely on form and is understandable, Rahane’s brilliant record overseas should have made a solid case for the skipper in the middle order. When India toured South Africa back in 2013-14, Rahane had scored 47 and 15 in Johannesburg and 51* and 96 in Durban and enjoys a cumulative average of 69.66 in the Rainbow nation.
Wriddhiman Saha - Saha could be seen as more of a baggage on India’s passenger train when it comes to his batting, but he is also their best man behind the stumps in the longest format. He was involved in ten South African dismissals in the first Test and should take half the credit of what the pace bowlers have got. However, he could make only eight runs in two innings leaving India seriously thin in the lower middle order.
Hardik Pandya - The all-rounder was phenomenal in the last game with a quick-fire 93 in the first innings and picking up two wickets in each innings, which was enough for the media to draw comparisons from legendary Kapil Dev yet again. The 24-year-old will have to keep playing crucial knocks game as India look win series in South Africa for the first time in their history.
Ravichandran Ashwin - Though going with four pacers and one extra batsman has been recurrent thought after the first Test, Ashwin’s experience could be instrumental in Centurion. Despite Newlands being pace bowler’s paradise, Ashwin bowled picked up two wickets bowling just eight overs in the entire match. He was also India's highest run scorer in the second innings.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar - He has become Virat Kohli’s go-to bowler in all the three formats now. He went through the South African gate like a two-edged sword in the last game, and all his wickets were very important. As if that wasn’t enough, he impressed with the bat as well. It was his partnership with Pandya in the first innings, which kept India in the game and he remains India's most important player in the upcoming game as well.
Mohammed Shami - Despite not getting the most desirable of starts in the first innings where he gave away runs apart from an important wicket of Vernon Philander, Shami was India’s biggest weapon in the second innings. His three-wicket haul helped significantly in dismantling South Africa for a meager 130. He will be one of India’s spearheading bowlers in this match again.
Jasprit Bumrah - Handing a debut to Bumrah had raised some eyebrows too, but the youngster has proved his mettle. Though he could claim just one wicket in the first innings, he bounced back in the second innings to get three. However, with the likes of Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma on the bench, Bumrah has a slight chance of being rested in this game as he will be crucial to India in the ODIs and T20Is.
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