Test Cricket

India vs SA 2021: Team India’s Best First-choice Playing 11 for Test Series

Rohit Sharma returns as vice-captain as we look at the best first-choice playing 11 for Team India for the 2021 Test series vs South Africa (SA). 

Having completed a successful home series victory vs New Zealand in the Test matches, Team India would now be facing their toughest overseas series in the current WTC cycle. South Africa has been one of the toughest places for any visiting team, and India have 3 important matches coming up as they tour South Africa. 

The New Zealand series saw Team India resting a lot of key players. Given that it was a home series, India decided to take that gamble to rest some of the key players on account of workload. All these players are now back to the squad as India would not want to risk playing a half-strength squad.

This is a big headache for the management and Virat Kohli as a lot of promising players who did really well vs New Zealand would now find themselves competing with the original first-choice players. Nevertheless, what could be the best first-choice playing 11 for Team India for the Test series vs South Africa (SA)?

In the parallel, England are taking Australia in the second Test of Ashes. According to Betway, The odds as usual are completely in favor of Australia. The odds for Australia are 8/15. Whereas for England the odds are 14/5. It would be an interesting battle as Australia are already 1-0 up. 

Team India’s Official Squad for 2021 Test Series vs South Africa

Batsmen: Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara, Hanuma Vihari, KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Rishabh Pant (WK), Rohit Sharma, Shreyas Iyer, Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli & Wriddhiman Saha (WK)

All-rounders: Jayant Yadav & Ravichandran Ashwin 

Bowlers: Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Shardul Thakur & Umesh Yadav 

Coach: Rahul Dravid // Captain: Virat Kohli // Vice-captain: Rohit Sharma

Openers: Rohit Sharma & KL Rahul

The original first-choice openers, Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul were missing from the New Zealand Test series. While Rohit Sharma was rested, KL Rahul was left out on account of injury. In place of these two, Mayank Agarwal and Shubman Gill played really good cricket. But Team India would be back to opening with their strongest opening duo of RO and KL. 

Middle-order: Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (C) & Ajinkya Rahane

The middle-order would be the toughest position for Virat Kohli to decide the batters. The veterans Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane are horribly struggling for form in the last 2-3 years. Even in the last home series, these two hardly managed to score any runs. They couldn’t even cross a tally of 100 runs from 4 innings, which is a horrible stat. 

Ideally, both Pujara and Rahane should be left out, and instead, Hanuma Vihari and Mayank Agarwal or Shreyas Iyer should be given a chance. The latter two were also excellent vs New Zealand, and deserve a preference. But Kohli and management may stick to the Puji and Aji combo; at least for the first Test. 

Apart from these two, Virat Kohli would want to make sure he is back to his beast best in South Africa. After being sacked from the ODI captaincy, the fighter Virat Kohli may want to fire all guns blazing with all freedom. More importantly, it’s been 2 years since we last saw Virat Kohli score an International century. These two reasons should get the best out of Virat Kohli. 

Wicket-keeper: Rishabh Pant

Wriddhiman Saha had led the wicket-keeping duties vs New Zealand in the absence of Team India’s first-choice wicket-keeper, Rishabh Pant. The pocket rocket was rested for the Test series on account of workload, and it was actually very important. But with Rishabh back, Team India would want their star wicket-keeper to don the wicket-keeping duties. Not only he is an excellent batter but he has also become a safe wicket-keeper. 

Spinner: Ravichandran Ashwin

The absence of Team India’s star all-rounder, Ravindra Jadeja should only make this decision very easy. There’s no doubt that Ravichandran Ashwin is the best spinner in the world. But if Ashwin is played at 7, Team India’s lower-order becomes fragile, and hence India would have to compulsory play Shardul Thakur at 8. 

Pacers: Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj & Shardul Thakur

Virat Kohli had shown in England how much he loves the pacers as he played 4 pacers in all four Test matches. The South Africa tour should see no difference with Virat sticking to the same strategy. While Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, and Shardul Thakur are sure shot starters, Team India would play one of Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Siraj as the fourth pacer. 

This is a really difficult task to select. On one hand, there’s the experience of Ishant Sharma, and on the other hand, there’s the fire of Siraj. Form-wise, Siraj has an upper hand, and we all know how momentum-driven captain Kohli is. So, at least for the first Test, Mohammed Siraj should play as the fourth pacer in the playing 11. 

So, that completes the best first-choice playing 11 for Team India for the 2021 Test series vs South Africa (SA). There are only two things to ponder upon for India. While one is the decision of playing a seventh batter, the other is deciding the fourth pacer, if required. 

India vs South Africa 2021: Best First-choice Playing 11 for Test Series:

Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (C), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant (WK), Ravichandran Ashwin, Shardul Thakur, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah & Mohammed Siraj 

Thanks for reading! What’s your best playing 11 for Team India for the 2021 Test series vs South Africa (SA)? Please email your thoughts to business@cricalytics.com

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