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Hanuma Vihari dropped from South Africa Tests, added to India ‘A’ squad

Hanuma Vihari was omitted for the Test series against New Zealand at home; Virat Kohli rested for the first Test, Ajinkya Rahane to lead.

Written by Devendra Pandey | Mumbai |
Updated: November 13, 2021 1:32:36 pm
unofficial Test, India A vs South Africa A, draw, India A vs South Africa A draw, Bloemfontein, sports news, indian expressHanuma Vihari ended unbeaten on 72 from 116 balls with 12 fours. (File)

Middle-order batsman Hanuma Vihari, who was omitted from the Test squad for the home series against New Zealand, will travel with the India ‘A’ team to South Africa to gain game time. Vihari was not named in the India ‘A’ squad announced earlier this week, but will now use the three four-day games in South Africa to acclimatise to the conditions. India will play a three-match Test series in South Africa beginning in mid-December.

Vihari, who famously battled injury to save the Sydney Test, was part of the Test squad in England earlier this year but did not get a game.

Ajinkya Rahane was named captain for the first Test against New Zealand in Kanpur (November 25 to 29) and will lead a side which will be without Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami, all of whom have been rested it is presumed. The BCCI did not mention reasons for omission in its statement on Friday but made it clear that Kohli would captain the side for the second Test in Mumbai, to be played from December 3 to 7.

Vihari, however, is not assured of a place in the squad for the series in South Africa and his selection will be purely based on form during his India ‘A’ assignments, a source in the Indian cricket board said.

“It is better to send him to South Africa. The Indian team will be playing in South Africa later this year. If he scores there then he will be picked for the Indian team against South Africa,” a source in the Indian board said.

Perhaps, the selectors feel that Vihari isn’t likely to play in the two Tests at home and is better off playing in South Africa with India ‘A’. The Indian senior team is set to tour South Africa in a month’s time and in-form Vihari in those conditions would be a better bet than cooling his heels in the dressing room in India.

Shreyas Iyer is the one who has been selected ahead of Vihari (for Tests against New Zealand) but in all probability he won’t be in the playing XI. But it remains to be seen if the team still prefers Iyer over Vihari, if the opportunity presents itself in South Africa. That would be doing a disservice to Vihari who has proven his worth overseas.

There is another dynamic involved. The theory is that Vihari is seen as a potential replacement for Cheteshwar Pujara and Iyer for Ajinkya Rahane in the future.

Iyer is yet to make his Test debut but has played stroke-filled innings in white-ball cricket. The team for the home series has three openers in KL Rahul, Shubman Gill and Mayank Agarwal.

With wicketkeeper Pant not playing, Wriddhiman Saha will be the first choice and his back up will be Andhra’s KS Bharat, who has plenty of First-Class runs under his belt and recently batted up the order for Royal Challengers Bangalore. Medium pacer from Karnataka Prasidh Krishna has also found a place in the Indian Test squad in the absence of Bumrah and Shami. Haryana off-spinner Jayant Yadav, also a useful batsman, has returned to the Test squad which includes R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja in the spin department.

India’s Test squad: Ajinkya Rahane (c), KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara (vc), Shubman Gill, S Iyer, Wriddiman Saha (wk), KS Bharat (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, R. Ashwin, Axar Patel, J Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Mohd Siraj and Prasidh Krishna.

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Why Surya Kumar Yadav should have been picked for India ‘A’?

It would be a travesty of justice if a talented batsman like Surya Kumar Yadav is seen only as a T20 player. But it seems to be the case since the selectors have omitted him from the ‘A’ tour of South Africa ahead of the Test series. He is not part of the Test squad for the home series against New Zealand. He has done well in the T20 format of course but his real strengths lie in the longer version. He was in the Test scheme of things and was in the squad during India’s tour of England. The selectors need to explain what has changed. Getting Shreyas Iyer in the pipeline for the middle order is a wise decision but Yadav shouldn’t be forgotten.

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