Bumrah, Thakur in contention for South Africa tour

Bumrah, Thakur in contention for South Africa tour

India’s squad for the Tests in South Africa will be announced on Monday with the three-member selection panel, led by MSK Prasad, set to meet captain Virat Kohli after play in Nagpur. They will also pick the squads for the remainder of the ongoing series against Sri Lanka, which includes the final Test in Delhi followed by three ODIs and three T20Is.
Evidently, the South Africa Test squad selection will be the main focus for the selectors. 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…
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 remains the frontrunner even though he reportedly picked a niggle on Saturday while playing for Mumbai against Tripura. He has been part of various India A squads and had gone to 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 27.89.