The in-form Shubman Gill will renew his quest for selection into the senior team when India ‘A’ take on South Africa ‘A’ in the first unofficial Test beginning in Thiruvananthapuram from Monday. The highly-rated Gill will lead the team in the first of the two four-day matches, with veteran ‘keeper Wriddhiman Saha captaining in the second. The teams for both the matches are a mix of experience and youth.
Karnataka all-rounder K Gowtham is set to miss out as he is unwell. Kerala’s spin bowling all-rounder Jalaj Saxena has been added to the team for the first match as cover for Gowtham. Gowtham, who was in his element during the ‘A’ team’s tour of the Caribbean and shone in the Karnataka Premier League, is currently being monitored by the BCCI mdical team.
Srikar Bharat has showcased his skills with the gloves and bat in the several games he has played for India ‘A’ in the past year or so and has been close to selection in the senior team.
With Rishab Pant becoming the first-choice ‘keeper across formats in the absence of Mahendra Singh Dhoni and with the selectors likely to manage his workload, the focus will be on the likes of Bharat to replace him whenever he is given a break. Bharat and Saha are among those in the fray for the second ‘keeper’s slot and their performances will be watched with interest.
The focus will also be on openers Priyank Panchal and Abhimanyu Easwaran though the duo will feature only in the second match, to be played in Mysuru from September 17. The two batsmen have scored heavily for Gujarat and Bengal respectively in the past few seasons with Easwaran slamming a big century in the Duleep Trophy final that concluded on Saturday.
With K L Rahul not in the best of form, the duo will be keen to put in a strong performance against a quality SA ‘A’ attack that includes, among others, the sharp Lungi Ngidi, who is coming back from an injury.
All-rounders Vijay Shankar and Shivam Dube will feature in both matches. The Tamil Nadu player who returned mid-way from the World Cup due to an injury and made a comeback during the TNPL only to get injured again and miss the limited-overs leg of ‘A’ series, gets an opportunity to underline his credentials. Mumbai player Dube, on the other hand, has impressed in the recent five-match unofficial ODIs against SA ‘A’, showing an ability to get quick runs. He will be eager to perform in the longer format, too, and catch the selectors’ eye.
Jharkhand left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem has been a consistent performer over the years and starred in the ‘A’ team’s recent win against West Indies ‘A’ in the Caribbean.
The Proteas ‘A’ team, led by Aiden Markram, seen as a future senior team captain, includes several players with international experience. Markram and the rest will look to gain experience of playing in sub-continent with the Test series to follow the T20 Internationals. The series will also serve as good preparation for Ngidi, who is part of the Test squad. He had struggled with a hamstring injury during the World Cup and played only four of the side’s nine matches in the tournament in England.
India A: Shubman Gill (captain), Ruturaj Gaikwad, Anmolpreet Singh, Ricky Bhui, Ankeet Bawne, KS Bharat (wicket-keeper), K Gowtham, Shahbaz Nadeem, Shardul Thakur, Mohammed Siraj, Tushar Deshpande, Shivam Dube, Vijay Shankar.
South Africa ‘A’: Aiden Markram (captain), Theunis de Bruyn, Zubayr Hamza, Lungi Ngidi, George Linde, Pieter Malan, Eddie Moore, Senuran Muthusamy, Marco Jansen, Dane Piedt, Wiaan Mulder, Heinrich Klaasen, Lutho Sipamla, Khaya Zondo.
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