The Indian team management is all set to drop wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha and opener Shikhar Dhawan from the playing XI for the second Test against South Africa but chances of Ajinkya Rahane’s comeback look highly unlikely. It is learnt that the conditions in Centurion may not aid swing bowling and Ishant Sharma could be considered in place of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, despite his six-wicket match haul and a gritty 25 in the first Test. However, the Ishant-Bhuvneshwar swap is still not confirmed even though the other two changes are more or less certain.
Pint-sized Gujarat wicketkeeper-batsman Parthiv Patel, who is universally acknowledged as a far more accomplished batsman than Saha, is set to get a look-in along with Karnataka opener KL Rahul. Dhawan’s susceptible technique in bouncy and seaming conditions has been under the scanner and Rahul, who had hit his maiden Test hundred in Australia, is considered to be more well equipped technically.
Parthiv last played against England and scored 195 runs in three Test matches, when Saha was injured. “The team management understands that they need to shore up the batting. Apart from his 878 Test runs in 23 Tests, his first-class average is phenomenal. He has more than 10,000 runs with 26 centuries. The team management couldn’t have possibly avoided that,” a senior BCCI official, who is privy to team management’s decision, told news agency PTI on Friday.
Parthiv is known to be a better backfoot player compared to Saha and can hit horizontal bat shots well unlike the Bengal player, whose frontfoot trigger movement makes him a possible leg-before candidate. In the case of Dhawan, the team management at last seemed to have understood that he does not have the technique to play short-pitched stuff coming at a lively pace, as it was evident in both innings at Cape Town, where he was not in control of the pull shots. For the team management, Dhawan can be be a good choice in Mumbai, Delhi or Colombo but not in Brisbane, Headingley or Cape Town.
Rahul, on the other hand, has till now played 21 Tests, scoring 1428 runs at an average of 44.62 with four hundreds and 10 half-centuries. He is among the only three Indian batsmen in international cricket, who has got hundreds across all formats, apart from Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma. The logic behind bringing back Ishant is his ability to bowl long spells to the tune of 11-12 overs, and the team management is well aware that the kookaburra seam wears out easily.
Mohammed Shami, with his eternal dodgy knee and Jasprit Bumrah, with a stressful action, needs to be used judiciously. For Bhuvneshwar, the conditions become paramount and Ishant could be used more as a restrictive option rather than an attacking one.