After already being 2-0 down in the series, India now travel to the city of Johannesburg to take on the mighty Proteas at the intimidating Wanderers stadium, where the conditions are likely to aid pace, swing and bounce. The debate will again hover around India’s playing eleven for the match – with captain Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri being accused of taking some extremely harsh calls by dropping Ajinkya Rahane and Bhuvneshwar Kumar for the Centurion Test.
The series is already done and dusted but India will certainly have pride and their number 1 ranking to play for in the series finale. South African captain Faf du Plessis has also stated that his team will not take the match lightly inspite of it being a dead rubber as “it is not everyday that you get an opportunity to whitewash the world’s top ranked team.”
Ahead of the Wanderers Test, we take a look at the players who are likely to take the field for both teams on Wednesday (January 24) at the Wanderers.
INDIA PREDICTED XI
Murali Vijay – The Tamil Nadu-batsman has been India’s best batsman in foreign conditions over the past five years and his failure in this series has hurt his team’s chances and has been a major factor in South Africa running away with the series. Nevertheless, Vijay will get another chance to prove his credentials of batting in difficult conditions once again in the Johannesburg Test. He will have to do well and bat for a long period of time if India are to salvage a win on this tour.
KL Rahul – Picked as a replacement for the out-of-sorts Shikhar Dhawan, Rahul himself failed to live up to the hype in the Centurion Test and was dismissed cheaply in both innings of the match. The Indian team management does have the option of going back to Dhawan but is likely to persist with the talented Rahul in the 3rd Test. Blessed with the gift of timing and a solid technique, Rahul will be looking to make amends at the Wanderers but it is easier said than done.
Cheteshwar Pujara – It is almost impossible to believe that a man known for occupying the crease for hours and hours together and grinding out the opposition bowlers was dismissed run out in both innings of the 2nd Test. Pujara has been a rock in India’s middle-order in recent times and has a known appetite for big runs but has failed spectacularly in this series. India will need big runs from their Number 3 batsman in the next Test to avoid a whitewash in South Africa.
Virat Kohli (c) – Captain Kohli is the only Indian batsman who has looked in any sort of comfort against the South African pace battery and is also the only player on both sides to have scored a century in this series so far. The Indian captain batted at a level or two above the rest of his teammates in the first innings of the Centurion Test but lacked any real support at the other end. Kohli will again have to bring his A-game in the 3rd Test to help his team register a face-saving win in the Rainbow nation.
Ajinkya Rahane – The man who has generated most headlines in cricketing circles across the globe even after sitting out both Tests so far, Rahane finally looks set to reclaim his berth in the Indian middle-order and will have the chance defy his critics and even the team management to an extent. The Test vice-captain is one of the most accomplished players in the longest format and his presence is likely to strengthen Indian batting in the final match of the series.
Parthiv Patel (wk) – The veteran wicketkeeper got a chance to restart his Test career in the Centurion Test in the wake of Wriddhiman Saha’s injury but it has to be admitted that Parthiv failed to live up to the expectations as he dropped crucial catches in both innings of the match and also couldn’t contribute with the bat when his team needed him to stay in the middle. Dinesh Karthik has been flown in as cover for Saha but Shastri and Kohli are expected to stick with the diminutive Parthiv and hope that he can put in a much better performance in the final match of the series.
Hardik Pandya – The mercurial Pandya was a genuine silver lining for India in the Cape Town Test and much was expected of him in the 2nd match at Centurion but like most of his teammates, the Baroda all-rounder failed with both bat and ball and was also guilty of getting run out owing to a schoolboy error in the first innings. The series is now gone but Pandya will have another opportunity to redeem himself and prove his credentials as a genuine batting all-rounder for India going forward.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar – After picking up the most number of wickets and facing the most number of deliveries in the Cape Town Test, Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s ouster in the 2nd Test came as a surprise for pundits and fans alike. With the conditions expected to aid seam and swing, the Uttar Pradesh-seamer is likely to get the nod ahead of Ravichandran Ashwin for the Wanderers Test with India looking to go for the kill with an all out pace attack for the match.
Mohammad Shami – After suffering a first innings-syndrome in both the Cape Town and Centurion Test, Shami has chosen the second innings on both occasions to display his match-winning abilities with the ball. Effective with the new ball and a master of reversing the old ball, Shami has bowled well in the series so far and has picked up wickets at crucial junctures every time. He will be hoping to put in another efficient shift in Johannesburg and hope that his batsmen can support his efforts this time around.
Ishant Sharma – After missing the 1st Test in Cape Town due to illness, the veteran pacer bowled well in the Centurion Test and shouldered the responsibility of leading India’s attack on a slow, flat wicket. Ishant bowled long spells in the match and was hard to get away, bowling at a miserly economy rate. The Delhi-pacer also picked up important wickets in both innings and Kohli will be looking for a similar show in the series finale from his most experienced bowler.
Jasprit Bumrah – After a solid debut in the series opener where he got AB de Villiers out in both innings, Bumrah looked a bit jaded and off-colour in the Centurion Test and one thinks that captain Kohli and coach Shastri might opt to replace him with the more experienced Umesh Yadav or even bring in Ravindra Jadeja for the Johannesburg Test. But it has to be said that Bumrah might have done just enough to retain his place in the side for this match, with another opportunity to prove his red-ball credentials.
SOUTH AFRICA PREDICTED XI
Dean Elgar, Theunis de Bruyn, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis (Captain), Quinton de Kock (WK), Vernon Philander, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Morne Morkel, Lungi Ngidi