All eyes on Pujara as Board President's XI take on South Africa
Mumbai: The two-day tour warm-up game against Board President's XI, commencing here tomorrow, offers the touring South African cricketers a decent chance to get into the groove for the longest version of the game after their successful run in the T20 and ODI series against India.
The match, to be held at the Cricket Club of India s Brabourne Stadium, equally provides opportunities for young hopefuls from the home team to showcase their skills against a top class international side, while giving Test squad members Cheteshwar Pujara and K L Rahul quality time in the middle to settle in for the formidable task ahead against the visitors.
Pujara and Rahul, who did not figure in the shortest formats of the game against the visitors, would get a taste of the classy and frightening pace battery they would be up against in the upcoming four-Test series commencing at Mohali on November 5.
For other talented and performing domestic players such as Delhi opener Unmukt Chand, and Karnataka and Mumbai middle order batsmen Karun Nair and Shreyas Iyer, the game presents a not-to-be-missed occasion to come up with a telling performance to push their case further with the selectors.
Wicket keeper Naman Ojha, second behind no. 1 Wriddhiman Saha in the Test scenario, too has been offered the chance to grab the moment for making his presence felt behind the wickets with his glove work and in front with the bat.
With an eye on shoring up the thin bowling stock, the selectors have chosen young Rajasthan pacer Nathu Singh and Mumbai new ball bowler Shardul Thakur and spinners Karn Sharma, Jayant Yadav and Kuldeep Yadav.
Traditional leg spinner Karn Sharma has already tasted international cricket at the highest level while the two Yadavs seem to have been short-listed for their potential to fill in the back-up spots for off spin and left arm spin, though of the Chinaman variety.
Haryana off spinner Jayant should merit a close look having already figured for India A against their SA and Bangladesh counterparts in the series earlier this season and done reasonably well.
With J& K's Pervez Rasool not in the picture right now, a good show against the visitors could push forth the 25-year-old Jayant's case strongly as likely back-up to Numero Uno, R Ashwin.
Kuldeep Yadav, five years younger, is also someone who needs to be looked at closely and kept in mind for bigger things as Chinaman bowlers are a rare breed, especially in India.
For South Africa, who had enjoyed a small break to unwind after the hectic and successful limited-over stint, the match is the only game before they plunge into the four-Test rubber against India.
A lot of them had been part of the T20 and ODI squads and have already acclimatised to the weather and ground conditions, to a certain extent, though Test matches are a different kettle of fish.
But there are others like fast bowler Vernon Philander and wicket keeper Dane Vilas, who look certainties for the opening Test but were not part of the T20 and ODI squads, who would benefit from this game to adapt quickly to the Indian conditions.
South Africa's Test captain Hashim Amla has not been in the thick of runs in the preceding part of the tour. He would love nothing better than the chance to spend a long time at the crease and return to his wonted form ahead of what promises to be a rough and tough four-game rubber.
Two key members of the limited over squad fast bowler Morne Morkel and middle order batsman J P Duminy had picked up injuries during the ODI rubber won by South Africa 3-2 and missed the last two ties.
The CCI match affords them the ideal occasion to test their fitness for the gruelling series to follow.
The South African selectors have picked two off break bowlers for the Test part of the tour 26-year-old Simon Harmer and 25-year-old Dane Piedt and the game would test their skills against some young batsmen reared on playing in spin-friendly pitches.
Teams (from): Board President XI: Cheteshwar Pujara (captain), KL Rahul, Unmukt Chand, Karun Nair, Shreyas Iyer, Naman Ojha, Hardik Pandya, Jayant Yadav, Kuldeep Yadav, Shardul Thakur, Nathu Singh, Karn Sharma, Sheldon Jackson
South Africa: Hashim Amla (captain), A B de Villiers, Vice-Capt), Temba Bavuma, J P Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Dean Elgar, Simon Harmer, Imran Tahir, Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander, Dane Piedt, Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn, Stiaan van Zyl, Dane Vilas.