NAGPUR: Having said that they are treating the Sri Lanka Tests as preparation for the South Africa series early next year, the Indian team management will officially start the countdown on Monday, when the selectors meet here to pick the squad for the Test series over there.
Squads for the ODI and T20 series against Sri Lanka will also be named. But for practical and other purposes, the focus will be on the composition of the Test squad for South Africa tour.
Given that the batsmen are more or less known, the debate is over fast bowlers and spinners. Reliable sources told Express that a wrist spinner is a possibility.
But since Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have been occupying the two slots for spinners, leaving out either would be a tough call.
This can be solved by naming three spinners, which will lead to complications regarding the number of fast bowlers. The squad of 16 is certain to include seven specialist batsmen, all-rounder Hardik Pandya and wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha.
In contention for the remaining seven slots are five fast bowlers, three spinners and a reserve wicketkeeper. If Pandya is considered a fast bowler, one specialist pacer can be left out.
That still leaves the selectors with the task of picking either a spinner or a wicketkeeper.
“It’s a tricky call because you need fast bowling back-ups. And considering South African pitches, a leg-spinner appears to be a good option. Kuldeep Yadav is in the picture because of this.
But that means dropping either Ashwin or Jadeja, which isn’t easy. It will depend on what the team management wants,” a source said.
The last time India went to South Africa in 2013-14, the squad of 17 had three spinners including Amit Mishra. There were also five fast bowlers and seven batsmen other than MS Dhoni, with Saha being the reserve wicketkeeper. Such a combination can be tried out again if the selectors feel the necessity for a second wicketkeeper.
In practical estimates, three spinners in the squad will be a luxury in South Africa, given that pitches over there are unlikely to assist this breed.
That way, having Kuldeep and one of Ashwin and Jadeja makes sense. But this requires a brave decision which the selectors may not be willing to take without consulting the captain and coach. Mohammed Shami’s fitness status will also be discussed along with his tendency to break down.
Jasprit Bumrah is the likely next option if the selectors indeed decide to leave out Shami. The other way out is to name a squad of 17 like the Indian team has done in the past.