Rahane, Ishant and Hanuma in focus

India squad for SA: With India's all-important tour of South Africa approaching, all eyes are on the trio of Ajinkya Rahane, Ishant Sharma and Hanuma Vihari.
India squad for SA: With India’s all-important tour of South Africa approaching, all eyes are on the trio of Ajinkya Rahane, Ishant Sharma and Hanuma Vihari.

India squad for SA: India defeated New Zealand by 372 runs on Monday and marked their 14th consecutive series win at home. New Zealand managed a draw in the Kanpur Test, but were pushed to the floor despite Ajaz Patel’s historic 10-wicket haul in an innings in the match in the second and final Test in Mumbai. Follow India tour of South Africa Live on InsideSport.IN. 

India squad for SA: Ishant Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari in focus ahead of selection meeting

The victory also marked captain Virat Kohli’s 50th win across formats as a player – the only cricketer to achieve the feat till date, but not big enough for Virat Kohli to lose focus from the upcoming South Africa. The series no doubt has is crucial for many including the captain himself. The wait for Virat Kohli’s 71st international hundred continues but the series have the potential to make the 33-year-old immortal as the Test captain of the Indian cricket team. Not to forget, Kohli’s fire in the belly for Test cricket is unquestionable and unquenchable. The right-hander gave away the T20I captaincy in November to focus on the longest form of the game.

If the series is expected to be testing for the likes of Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Jasprit Bumrah, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. Senior wicketkeeper-batsman Wriddhiman Saha is 37 and believing that the upcoming series could be his last would not be entirely wrong. The tour which kicks off from December 26 will also define the careers of many youngsters in the squad.

Everything said, it will definitely be testing for someone like Ajinkya Rahane, Ishant Sharma and Hanuma Vihari. While the reason for Vihari’s exclusion from the New Zealand series is still not clear, Rahane and Ishant are in focus for their respective performances. With the squad yet to be announced, let’s find out why are the trio in focus ahead of the selection meeting.

1. Hanuma Vihari: When the right-hander last played for India he took a painkiller injection because of Grade 2 tear on his hamstring. The 28-year-old could not feel his leg but for the pride of the country and in his desire to give something back to the team, faced 161 balls of all kinds for his 23 not out. His partnership with Ravichandran Ashwin accounted for 62 unbeaten runs in 258 balls, helping India draw the Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG).

The middle-order batsman was part of India squad which travelled to England, but he did not get to play any game there. He represented his domestic side Hyderabad in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy 2021 recently before being dropped for the home Test series against New Zealand.

#HanumaVihari started trending soon after the axing. On the very same day, Vihari was added to India A’s squad for the three 4-day first-class matches to South Africa. After scoring 25 runs in his only outing in the first match, Vihari has made a strong case for himself after hitting twin fifties (54 and 72*) in the second match.

Meanwhile, Shreyas Iyer has hit a hundred in his debut Test match in India. If management persists with out-of-form Rahane, it would be interesting to see the fate of Vihari, once considered a regular in the Test team. Not to forget, there has been talks about trying Shubman Gill in the middle order.

2. Ishant Sharma: 14 wickets at an average of 32.71 in 8 matches does not fit with a player who has played 105 Tests so far. He is tied with Zaheer Khan as India’s fifth highest wicket-taker. 311 wickets each for Ishant and Zaheer but in 105 and 92 matches respectively. Among active pacers with 250 or more wickets, James Anderson has an average of 26.62, Stuart Broad – 27.84, Tim Southee – 28.19, Trent Boult – 27.67 and Mitchell Starc – 27.57.

The 33-year-old has went wicketless in his has last two Test matches. The rise of Mohammed Siraj in the red ball cricket has added to his woes.

3. Ajinkya Rahane: Enough has been written about the Indian vice-captain. We won’t repeat the tale of his consistent batting failures but definitely talk about his average in the last three years. In 2019, the Mumbai batsman ended the year with 642 runs in 8 matches at an average of 71.33. In the following year, that dropped to 38.85 in 4 matches. Come 2021, the 33-year-old has scored 411 runs in 12 matches at a measly average of 19.57. If we dig in the stats further, the right-hander has only four centuries to his name in the last 5 years. Only two scores 20 plus have come in his last 10 innings.

Shreyas Iyer, Suryakumar Yadav, Hanuma Vihari have been lurking around to grab a middle-order position in the famous Indian batting line-up. Not long ago, Ravindra Jadeja had walked ahead of Rahane during the England tour. Mayank Agarwal and Shubman Gill, primarily openers, could also be tried in the middle once KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma return in the squad for the all-important Test series. It’s very clear, the options to replace Rahane are several.

However, Virat Kohli, after the New Zealand series win, hinted that Rahane would get a longer rope because of his ‘impact performances’ in the past.

“I cannot judge Ajinkya’s form. I think no one can judge it. The individual knows the areas of the game he needs to work hard. We need to back players who have come up with impact performances for us in the past under tough situations in key Test matches,” Virat Kohli said in the press conference.

India squad for SA: Ishant Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari in focus ahead of selection meeting



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