Centurion, South Africa: Batting great Sunil Gavaskar has named his preferred playing XI for India’s crucial first Test against South Africa, slated for Boxing Day at SuperSport Park in Centurion. His picks feature an intriguing shift in batting order, with rising star Shubman Gill batting ahead of Virat Kohli, and a two-spin attack with Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin.
Rohit, Jaiswal to Open, Kohli Slips to No. 4: Gavaskar opts for stability at the top of the order, pairing Rohit Sharma with young gun Yashasvi Jaiswal. In a surprising move, Shubman Gill, who impressed at No. 3 in the West Indies, gets bumped down to No. 4, making way for Virat Kohli to bat at his familiar No. 3 position. Shreyas Iyer and KL Rahul (wk) slot in at No. 5 and No. 6, respectively, with the order flexible beyond that.
Double Spin Threat with Jadeja, Ashwin: Gavaskar backs Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin to handle the spin bowling duties, acknowledging Centurion’s potential to favor pace bowling. He suggests starting with three pacers – Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, and Bengal’s rising star Mukesh Kumar – with Prasidh Krishna as a potential alternative for either Mukesh or Siraj.
Selection Headaches Remain: Gavaskar’s XI addresses some key questions but leaves others unanswered. With Ishan Kishan unavailable, KL Rahul emerges as the frontrunner for wicketkeeping duties, though KS Bharat remains in the squad. The final pace bowling spot remains a toss-up between Mukesh and Prasidh, adding to the intrigue ahead of the series opener.
High Stakes for India: This two-match Test series against South Africa is crucial for India’s World Test Championship (WTC) aspirations. Having recently emerged victorious in the ODI series, Rahul Dravid’s men will look to translate their momentum into success in the red-ball format. Gavaskar’s XI offers a strong starting point, but the final selections and on-field execution will determine India’s fate in the series opener.
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