© Associated Press
Fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah has earned a maiden Test call-up, after being named in the 17-member squad for the three-Test series against South Africa, which starts from January 5 in Cape Town. Wicketkeeper-batsman Parthiv Patel, Bumrah’s state mate and captain at Gujarat, has also been recalled, as back-up wicket-keeping option for Wriddhiman Saha.
© ESPNcricinfo Ltd
The pair of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Pandya returned to the Test squad, after voluntary breaks from the ongoing home Test series against Sri Lanka. The two players from the existing squad who missed out were left-arm wristspinner Kuldeep Yadav and Tamil Nadu allrounder Vijay Shankar, who had replaced Bhuvneshwar in the squad for the Nagpur and Delhi Tests.
Bumrah can be seen as radical choice mainly because he has not played first-class cricket in nearly a year. His last appearance in whites was when he turned up for Gujarat in the 2016-17 Ranji Trophy semi-final against Jharkhand in January this year. However, the fast nature of pitches at the three Test venues in South Africa – Cape Town, Centurion and Johannesburg – meant that the selectors were keen to have a fifth specialist fast bowler despite the presence of Pandya as an allrounder.
Bumrah’s ability to swing the ball into right-handers, his searing pace and accurate yorkers, and his bowling smarts pushed him quickly ahead in the selection queue. His recent form was also not lost on the selectors. In limited-overs cricket Bumrah has been stellar this year: with 35 wickets, he is the fourth-highest wicket-taker in ODIs in 2017.
India’s chairman of selectors MSK Prasad said Bumrah’s form had been “phenomenal” and it was hard to look beyond him for the fifth fast bowler’s slot.
“If you see his performance in the last 18 months, he’s been phenomenal,” Prasad said after the selection meeting in Delhi. “He’s been sensational and has done outstandingly well in both one-day and T20. Considering the Ranji Trophy he played last year (where) he bowled brilliantly in the whole season, we have no doubts. It is a unanimous choice and there is no doubt in picking Bumrah because he definitely adds variety to our pace attack. And considering the nature of wickets there, it will definitely suit his bowling.”
The rest of the squad, as Prasad pointed out, “picked itself” with no surprises. The selectors might have been tempted to include Kuldeep, considering his unorthodox spin could have been the X-factor against the South African batsmen. But in the end the selectors and Kohli, who attended the selection meeting, opted to play it safe and bank on their two senior spinners, R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.
Parthiv remains the best glovesman after Saha in the longer formats. Given his impressive domestic form and his ability to bat at any position, Parthiv was an automatic choice for the back-up wicket-keeper’s slot. He last played a Test for India against England in Chennai in December 2016.
India team: Virat Kohli (capt), M Vijay, KL Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (vice-capt), Rohit Sharma, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Parthiv Patel, Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.