Test Cricket

India vs South Africa 2021: Ideal Playing 11 for Test Series without Rohit

With Rohit Sharma injured, what’s the ideal playing 11 for Team India for the 2021 Test series vs South Africa? 

Just as Team India were planning to depart for the South Africa tour, Rohit Sharma’s injury rocked back Team India. The recently announced limited-overs captain of Team India and the Vice Captain of the Test Team suffered knee injury during the training sessions. Young Priyank Panchal was named as his replacement. 

Rohit Sharma has not only been an outstanding opener but he has also been Team India’s best batter in the World Test Championship. Without him, Team India will have to definitely ponder upon their opening combination. Apart from that, the lack of form and confidence of Pujara and Rahane is also a concern. 

Considering all these factors, what could be the ideal playing 11 for Team India for the 2021 Test series vs South Africa? Let’s find out in this article. Before that let’s skim through the official updated squad for Test Series. Meanwhile, in Ashes, things are getting interesting. According to Betway, the odds for Australia and England are now 2/13 and 50/1 respectively. 

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

Batsmen: Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara, Hanuma Vihari, KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Priyank Panchal, Rishabh Pant (WK), 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: KL Rahul

Openers: Mayank Agarwal & KL Rahul

With Rohit Sharma injured and Shubman Gill not in the squad, finding the right opening combination for the Test series is now an easy affair. KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal seems the ideal bet for Team India as openers for the Test series. KL Rahul was terrific in England, and Mayank was superb against New Zealand. Both would also be the first-choice openers for Team India for the 1st Test. 

Middle-order: Hanuma Vihari, Virat Kohli (C) & Shreyas Iyer

The biggest question for Team India would be to go with the experience of Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane or with in-form players, Hanuma Vihari and Shreyas Iyer. If we talk about predicted playing 11, Team India would go with experience. But if we talk about what’s ideal for the team seeing the current context, Hanuma Vihari and Shreyas Iyer are ideal bets in the middle order. 

Both, Pujara and Rahane haven’t been in great touch for almost 2 years now. Since 2020, Pujara has scored only 849 runs from 32 innings at an average of 27.4. This includes just seven 50+ scores and no hundred. For Rahane, it is more bad with just 683 runs from 29 innings at an average of 24.4. This includes only three 50+ scores. These are poor numbers for India’s most reliable batters. 

In contrast, Vihari and Iyer are currently in good form and high on confidence. Vihari scored three continuous 50+ scores for India A. Whereas Iyer scored a brilliant century and fifty on debut for Team India. It would not be a bad option to play Vihari at 3 and Iyer at 5. It will seem progressive, and India can take this gamble seeing Pujara and Rahane’s current form. 

Lower-order: Rishabh Pant, Ravichandran Ashwin & Shardul Thakur

Another talking point for Team India is whether to play 5 bowlers including Ashwin and Shardul to strengthen the lower-order or play an extra batter at 7 with Ashwin or Shardul donning the fourth bowler duties. Ideally, Shardul and Ashwin are reliable batters to strengthen the lower-order till 8. With them adding good value in the bowling department, overall it benefits the team more. 

However, with this strategy, Rishabh Pant’s role as a batter increases more. He will have to take more responsibility, and add more value as a batter. Pant is definitely capable of this as seen in the Test Series in the last two years. So, a combination of Rishabh Pant at 6 followed by Ashwin and Shardul at 7 and 8 seems ideal for the Test series. 

Pacers: Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami & Mohammed Siraj

The only question in the pace bowling department shall be whether to play the experience of Ishant Sharma or current in-form Mohammed Siraj. Ideally, any of the two is fine. Ishant is experienced, and has also been reliable in the last few years. Whereas Siraj has rose to prominence in the last two years, and is in red-hot form.

But personally, Siraj should be preferred to get more aggression in the bowling. Virat likes this, and will also benefit the team more. Siraj can also complement Bumrah and Shami well. In the trio, India would look more lethal, and there will be better chances of getting wickets. In addition, the pace trio will also be supported by Shardul Thakur, who is a wicket-taker. 

So, that completes the ideal playing 11 for Team India for the 2021 Test series vs South Africa. Really hope at least one of Vihari or Iyer is played in the playing 11, if not both. Other than that, the playing 11 seems fairly settled. 

India vs South Africa 2021: Ideal Playing 11 for Test Series without Rohit Sharma

Mayank Agarwal, KL Rahul, Hanuma Vihari, Virat Kohli (C), Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant (WK), Ravichandran Ashwin, Shardul Thakur, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah & Mohammed Siraj 

Thanks for reading! What’s your ideal playing 11 for Team India for the 2021 Test series vs South Africa without Rohit Sharma? Please email your thoughts to business@cricalytics.com

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