India vs South Africa Test Squad: K.L. Rahul dropped, Shubman Gill earns maiden call-up

Shubman Gill has received a maiden Test call up for the three-Test series against South Africa while K.L. Rahul has been shown the door,

K.L. Rahul's poor form with the bat cost him a place in India's Test squad for the upcoming three-match series against South Africa.   -  AP

Shubman Gill got his long-awaited Test call-up, KL Rahul was advised to get back among runs and Wriddhiman Saha can continue to hope to be back behind the stumps soon after the BCCI named its 15-member Test side for the upcoming three-match series against South Africa here on Thursday.

The selectors will hope to try out Rohit Sharma as an opener, a slot that has seen quite a few claimants being tested and falling short in the last couple of years. Sharma would also be captaining the Board President’s side in the warm-up game ahead of the series.

“Rohit has been opening in white-ball cricket for more than a decade now and we all think he has the ability to bat up the order. He was keen and we also want to give him some opportunities to bat up the order in Tests and see where he stands. If he can do that in red-ball also, nothing like that and since we have a lot of Tests coming up, it will be a boost to the side,” chief selector MSK Prasad said here.

Sharma’s inclusion comes at the cost of Rahul, who has his task cut out but Prasad was clear that the change was not merely for experimentation. “Its unfortunate that some of these guys (Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay) have gone out of the side purely on form. Everyone was given a fair run, so was KL. He is an exceptional talent but unfortunately, his form has dipped. With seniors like Shikhar (Dhawan) also not there you cannot change both openers in the side constantly, that also helped him get more opportunities. But he was delivering in patches, not consistently,” Prasad clarified.

He was also hopeful of Gill proving himself. “He has done well, both as an opener and in the middle order, so he can be a backup for both slots. But as he keeps playing, he will get more opportunities because he is a player for all three formats,” Prasad added.

Task cut out

While the likes of Umesh Yadav and Hardik Pandya found themselves out of the side purely because of the team’s requirements at home – with only two seamers likely to play – it won’t be as easy for Rishabh Pant to retain his place. While refusing to comment on who would be first choice wicket-keeper in the series, Prasad put the onus on the team management.

“Rishabh is definitely (main) to begin with but let’s leave it to how the team management thinks. We need a keeper with some more skills while playing at home,” was all he said, indicating that the youngster needed to work a lot more on his game.

Asked about the road ahead for the likes of Vijay or Rahul, Prasad was categorical. “When VVS Laxman was dropped, he went back to domestic cricket, got 1400 runs, returned to the side and never looked back. That's it.”

The first Test will be played from October 2 in Visakhapatnam.

India’s squad for 3 Tests: Virat Kohli (Captain), Mayank Agarwal, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (vice-captain), Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant (Wicket-keeper), Wriddhiman Saha (Wicket-keeper), Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Shubman Gill

Board President’s XI: Rohit Sharma (Captain), 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