India's Rohit Sharma
India's Rohit Sharma celebrates after scoring a century during the World Cup match against Sri Lanka at Headingley in Leeds, on July 6, 2019. Image Credit: AP

Dubai: Rohit Sharma, who displayed his skills as a prolific opener in the recent World Cup cricket with five centuries, will open the innings for India in the three Test series against South Africa. India’s selection committee chief selector M.S.K. Prasad, after announcing the 15-man squad for the home Test series against South Africa, stated that Sharma will open the innings for India and in the three-day match for Board President’s XI tie too.

The support for Sharma, to be considered as an opener, had been on the rise for the last few days. Though Sharma was part of the trip to the Caribbean, he was not picked for the Tests. Top cricketers like Sourav Ganguly and Adam Gilchrist had backed Sharma as an opener. Many are of the view that hard-hitter Sharma can deliver like Virender Sehwag did as a dashing opener.

Sharma’s weakness against the moving ball had resulted in him getting only 27 Tests appearances after scoring just 1,587 runs but he had played in 218 one-dayers and piled up 8,686 runs. He will also open in the three-day game on September 26 in Vizianagaram in which he will captain the Board President’s XI against South Africa.

Commenting on his selection, Sharma said: “There’s limited time you have as a player and I have finished almost half of it. There’s no point in spending the remaining half thinking whether I’ll be picked or not. I am going forward with the theory of ‘whatever time I have, make it count’,”

Sharma’s opening partner for the Test will be Mayank Agarwal as Shubman Gill, the 20-year-old batsman from Punjab, has replaced an out of form opener K.L. Rahul from the team that went to the Caribbean recently.

Gill won his place due to the good form he displayed for the India A team recently. Prasad remarked that Gill has done well as an opener and middle-order batsman: “He (Gill) can he can be a backup opener if needed. There is no dearth of openers in the country. We have created a good pool of players,” said Prasad.

Hanuma Vihari, who scored his maiden hundred in Test cricket during the second Test at Kingston after falling for 93 in the first Test against West Indies, will be one of the strong middle-order batsman along vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane. So with Cheteshwar Pujara coming in at No. 3, and Kohli at No. 4, Rahane and Vihari at 5 and 6 respectively.

The bowling will be led by Jasprit Bumrah who, featuring in his first Test series at home, will be eager to put on a good performance on Indian wickets after having done well in South Africa, England, Australia and West Indies. He will be backed by pacers Ishant Sharma and Mohammad Shami. The spin attack will have Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, and Kuldeep Yadav. The three Tests will be played on spin-friendly Visakhapatnam, Pune and Ranchi wickets.

India squad: Virat Kohli (Capt), Mayank Agarwal, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (vc), Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant (wk), Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammad Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Shubman Gill.