Many people pick up the newspapers and don’t feel a knot in their tummy- good or bad- when they reach the sports section. The Ranji Trophy, the Ind-WI ODI series, NZ-SL ODI series- they’re all on, but for the first time in 24 years, this is a new cricketing era without the services of Tendulkar, Ponting, Dravid, Lara and Warne. Who would have thought this day existed? Its not as post-apocalyptic as one expected, but it is pretty unnerving. For one, will the crowds still turn up at Wankhede to watch test matches?
Tendulkar‘s odi retirement was well phased out, he semi retired first to give us a feel of a team without him. By the end, it was a team that didn’t really need him. Whenever he decided to play, even he realized that the balance was disturbed a bit. Also, the indian odi team has been the strongest for over 2 years now. The transition happened while he was in the team, and fortunately, batsmen like kohli and dhawan have leapt to the boundaries of greatness already.
Now, how does an Indian test team look without sehwag, vvs, dravid and tendulkar?
The answer: we have no definite answer till the team goes overseas. But at home, the transition has been smooth- except for a hiccup loss to England that even jolted SRT to reality.
His holy number 4 position has to be filled by 1 of 2 players in the side now- with Dhawan, Vijay and Pujara cementing the top 3 spots. Vijay will be a hit-and-miss, but there are plenty of options for an opener.
Kohli and Rohit are in the purplest of purple patches. In fact, the Indian team has so many batsmen in form that even the bowlers have started to look good. In Sachin’s farewell test series, Rohit’s debut series, he was Man of the Series against his favorite opposition. That’s the 3rd time including 2 odi series performances.
But his second test innings with the tail pretty much sealed his fate at no. 5 or even 6, depending on circumstances. He finished so well that one wouldn’t have him come at 4, not for lack of technique like Manjrekar iterates, but because he has shown great adaptibility down the order. Sehwag was supposed to be the man that opened in odis and batted a test middle order, and now Rohit’s shown the same signs.
Kohli, quite frankly, is India’s best batsman at the moment. He is also aggressive and busy, a little inconsistent in tests, and the no. 4 could make him the fulcrum in the order to bat with greater responsibility. He already carries the odi side, now its time to step into larger test shoes and prove his hunger at the level. The SA series will be a crucial test of his skills, with the likes of Pujara blunting the attack for him, giving him more freedom to play his own game. Dravid would know a thing or two about that.
Rohit will follow at 5 with Dhoni at 6 and Jadeja at 7. Rahane could play at times instead of Jadeja in SA, considering Ashwin and Ojha are prolific spinners too. It could be unfortunate for Jadeja after missing out on the weak WI side with an injury- where Ojha capitalized. But most likely, it will be Ojha that misses out in SA, knowing Dhoni’s extra fondness of all-rounders. Yuvraj never gave him the choice, so he is now sticking rightfully to Jadeja.
Shami, Bhuvaneshwar, Yadav could take the seamer spots along with Ashwin and Jadeja on bouncy SA and Australian pitches. Ishant, meanwhile, is in the news even for making the Delhi Ranji side. Such has been his fall. We’ve seen it before with Irfan Pathan and Munaf Patel- but atleast they took wickets early in their careers.
Probable XI for SA tests: Dhawan, Vijay OR Rahane, Pujara, Kohli, Rohit, Dhoni (c), Jadeja, Ashwin, Bhuvaneshwar, Shami, Yadav OR Zaheer



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