India news December 4, 2017

Bumrah, third spinner on selectors' agenda for South Africa

Whom would you want to see in India's Test squad for South Africa? See the players in contention below and swipe:

The India squad for the three Tests in South Africa, originally meant to be announced last week, will finally be picked on Monday evening. The three-member selection panel, led by MSK Prasad, will meet captain Virat Kohli after the third day's play of the final Test against Sri Lanka in Delhi.

The first question will be on the squad strength: on their last overseas trip, to Sri Lanka, India went in with 16 members. The selectors are likely to prefer one more on the tour party to South Africa. Once that is sorted...

Who will be the fifth specialist fast bowler?

Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav and Bhuvneshwar Kumar are automatic choices. Although Hardik Pandya will play the role of the fourth seamer in the XI, the team management will not want to overwork him. Importantly, back-up will be needed in case of injury.

Shardul Thakur, Navdeep Saini and Jasprit Bumrah are the contenders.

Pundits feel Bumrah deserves to be in the Test squad based on his form in limited-overs cricket. Furthermore, in 26 first-class matches, he has 89 wickets at an average of 25.33 and a strike-rate of 56.3. He has the nerve, the speed and the ability to swing the ball in and deliver yorkers. If picked, Bumrah will be an extremely brave selection. He hasn't played any first-class cricket since last year's Ranji semi-final - he picked up 6 for 29 - and has spent his free time after the New Zealand T20Is at NCA instead of playing for Gujarat.

Less left-field will be Saini, the Delhi fast bowler who has made himself a name for being able to run in all day and maintain the intensity in the evening sessions too. He has been consistent in his performances over the last two domestic seasons - overall he has 81 wickets at 23.88 - which earned him entry into the India A team. On a tour of South Africa recently, Saini claimed seven wickets in two matches at 27.85.

If there is going to be a fifth fast bowler, Thakur could have been the frontrunner but he injured his shoulder while playing for Mumbai against Tripura and is not available for the quarter-final against Karnataka starting December 7. He has been part of various India A squads and had gone to the West Indies with the senior team in 2016. Although he is yet to make his Test debut, the stockily-built Thakur can generate decent pace and bounce off a robust run-up to the crease. Testament to his experience and ability are the 188 wickets he has taken in first-class cricket at 28.27.

Should Kuldeep Yadav be the third spinner?

If India pick a squad of 17, it opens the door for a third spinner, and if they want an aggressive option, then Kuldeep could come into play. He has just two Tests against his name, but that was enough for him to showcase his skills, his street-smartness and his dominance over the batsmen with his left-arm wristspin. A constant in the Test squad since his match-winning performance on debut earlier this year, Kuldeep might have done enough not just to earn a ticket to South Africa but even put some pressure on the tried and tested spin duo of R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.

Who will be the 17th member?

The selectors will probably want to have a specialist wicketkeeper-batsman as back-up for Wriddhiman Saha. Parthiv Patel seems to be a ready-made choice considering he can easily move up and down the order.

Nagraj Gollapudi is a senior assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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