Rohit Sharma and Co will look to accomplish a piece of Indian cricket history when they embark on the red-ball leg of the Tour of South Africa on Tuesday. The Indian cricket team levelled the Twenty20 International series 1-1 and won the One Day International series 2-1. But in Tests, the Indians have never won a series in South Africa.

In the past, they came agonisingly close in their last two Tours to the rainbow nation only to fall short by 2-1 both times. India’s last Test series in South Africa was also Virat Kohli’s last as captain – back in December 2021-January 2022 campaign.

This time around, as the South Africans undergo a period of transition – which includes former captain Dean Elgar calling time on his career after the series – India will look to conquer that missing piece.

This time around, India has an advantage going into the series since the South African team is going through a period of transition. Add to that, the departure of Dean Elgar, who was the captain last time India toured South Africa, deciding to hang his boots after this series.

India will be backing themselves to cross this frontier, having won consecutive series victories in Australia. Captain Sharma, Kohli and Jasprit Bumrah return fresh to international cricket after a heartbreaking World Cup campaign and subsequently, missing the white-ball leg of the Tour.

But the visitors too come in with a fresh look in terms of the line-up. They usher in a new batting era as it seems like the end of road for veterans Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara, who could not find a place in the Test side. Interestingly, this will be the first Test since 2012 for India without Rahane or Pujara in the team.

With Rishabh Pant’s return to the side still uncertain and Ishan Kishan missing the series, it seems like KL Rahul will also have to don the role of the wicket-keeper batter for the near future.

“It’s an exciting challenge,” said coach Rahul Dravid. “It’s an opportunity for [KL Rahul] to do something different. Rahul is very confident about giving it a go. We understand that he hasn’t done that quite often [in Test cricket], but he has done it in fifty overs, and even that is tough.

“He has done a lot of keeping in the past five-six months. One of the things here is that there is more pace bowling than spin, which will ease him into the role. It is nice to have someone like him, someone who has the ability with the bat and keep.”

Additionally, it is time for Shreyas Iyer to mark his return to the Test squad and prove his mettle on the bouncy tracks of South Africa.

With Mohammed Shami still not fit, India’s bowling attack will need Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj to be the backbone. There seems to be competition for the third pacer position and while Mukesh Kumar and Prasidh Krishna are in the running, Shardul Thakur appears to be the clear favourite due to his experience and ability with the bat.

There is still uncertainty over Thakur making it to the playing XI, as Ravichandran Ashwin may get the nod in case the pitch offers more to spinners than seamers.

After the Boxing Day Test at Centurion, the two sides will square-off at Cape Town. With just two Tests, the challenge that awaits India is short but grim. But not out of reach.

The Dravid-led management maintains that time has helped them move on from the heartbreak at Ahmedabad, but a historic win in South Africa could soothe it further.


India Test squad: Rohit Sharma (c), Shubman Gill, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, Abhimanyu Easwaran, KL Rahul (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Mohd. Siraj, Mukesh Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah (vc), Prasidh Krishna, KS Bharat (wk)

South Africa Test squad: Temba Bavuma (c), David Bedingham, Nandre Burger, Gerald Coetzee, Tony de Zorzi, Dean Elgar, Marco Jansen, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Wiaan Mulder, Lungi Ngidi, Keegan Petersen, Kagiso Rabada, Tristan Stubbs, Kyle Verreynne