India's top-order batsman KL Rahul was on Thursday dropped from the Test squad for the series against South Africa while Shubman Gill received his maiden Test call-up. Pacer Umesh Yadav, who was in the squad for the recent West Indies tour, was also dropped despite being included in the Board President's XI.
Rahul scored just 101 runs in two matches in the Tests against West Indies, and his place had come under major doubt following a disappointing show.
Despite being the world’s top-ranked Test side, India have struggled with their opening combination, which, in turn, has put pressure on the middle order.
Since 2018, KL Rahul, Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Parthiv Patel, Prithvi Shaw, Mayank Agarwal, and Hanuma Vihari have all opened in Tests but none have been able to cement their spot.
Chief selector said the responsibility of opening the innings will go to Rohit Sharma. "Want to give Rohit Sharma an opportunity to open the innings in Tests," he was quoted as saying.
Experienced duo Dhawan and Vijay were not included after repeat failures while Prithvi Shaw is currently serving a doping ban.
Rahul has played 36 Tests but failed to score a half-century in his last seven matches while his opening partner in West Indies, Mayank Agarwal, has just four Tests under his belt.
With Ajinkya Rahane and Vihari putting in solid performances in the middle order in two Tests against the West Indies, Rohit has had to sit out, prompting calls to try the limited-overs opener at the top of the order in the longest format too.
Gill, 20, inclusion is on expected lines after he top-scored for India A against West Indies A in the Caribbean and emerged as Man of the Series. He became the youngest Indian to score a first-class double hundred during the series.
Hardik Pandya has not been included in the squad which may have to do with fitness concerns.
Virat Kohli and Co kicked off their ICC World Test Championship campaign with a 2-0 series win away at West Indies. The Ravi Shastri-coached side, as a result, top the Championship table with 120 points.
This will be South Africa’s first outing in the World Test Championship. The first of the three Tests will commence on 2 October at Visakhapatnam. The second and third Tests will be played in Pune (10-14 October) and Ranchi (19-23 October) respectively.
India’s squad for 3 Tests: Virat Kohli (Captain), Mayank Agarwal, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (vc), Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant (wk),Wriddhiman Saha (wk), R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Shubman Gill.
Board President’s XI squad for 3-day warm-up game: Rohit Sharma (c), Mayank Agarwal, Priyank Panchal, AR Easwaran, Karun Nair, Siddhesh Lad, KS Bharat (wk), Jalaj Saxena, Dharmendrasinh Jadeja, Avesh Khan, Ishan Porel, Shardul Thakur, Umesh Yadav
With inputs from Reuters