BCCI Confirms India Tour of South Africa Will Proceed Despite COVID-19 Concerns
India was set to fly to South Africa in early December to take part in 3 tests, 3 ODIs, and 4 T20 games over December 2021 and January 2022. The tour to South Africa was thrown into jeopardy in the last 10 days as news broke of a new COVID-19 variant called omicron, which infected a number of people in the African continent.
The new omicron variant spread fear as many countries quickly decided to close their borders to multiple African nations. As a result, there were questions raised over India’s tour to South Africa. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) quickly responded and said that it stood in support of Cricket South Africa (CSA) and had no plans to immediately cancel the tour.
BCCI Confirms Tour Will Proceed
After waiting for a few days, the BCCI has finally confirmed that India’s tour of South Africa will proceed with a small change in dates and overall schedule. The first test match was originally scheduled to take place on 17 Dec. The BCCI has postponed the first test match, which will now start on 26 December.
The tour will now consist of three Test matches and three ODI games. The T20 series will not take place but will be postponed to a later date which is yet to be confirmed. The Indian team was expected to finish its second Test with New Zealand on 07 December and fly out to South Africa on Dec 09. However, that date is likely to be pushed back given that the first Test will now start on Dec 26.
CSA has confirmed that they will create a bio-bubble for the Test and ODI series to ensure that all players and staff are protected. This is one of the reasons why the BCCI and CSA agreed to a delayed start to get the new arrangements sorted and work through all the logistical issues. CSA is expected to confirm the venues for the 3 Tests and 3 ODIs in the coming week.
Selection For SA Tour Postponed
The BCCI was set to announce the squads for the Test, ODI, and T20 series to South Africa but, the announcement has been postponed due to the schedule change. The BCCI will likely wait for the second Test between India and New Zealand to be finished before naming its Test and ODI squad to South Africa.
India A team is currently in South Africa playing a South Africa A team and, a couple of players have done well for India A. The BCCI will definitely be looking at these players as their experience of being in South Africa and playing on the faster and bouncy wickets will give them an edge to get into the Test team.
Quite a few batsmen have done well for India A during the first two unofficial three-day Test matches. Abhimanyu Easwaran scored a century while India A captain Priyank Panchal missed out on a century and fell for 96. P Shaw only scored 48, but it came at a blistering pace as he hit 48 in 45 balls. P Shaw impressed yet again in the second Test, once again scoring at a fast pace but missing out on another half-century when he fell for 42.
The two bowlers that impressed were N Saini, who picked up 4 wickets in the second Test, and Ishan Porel, who picked up 6 wickets in the second Test. The selectors might look to retain the 23-year-old Porel as a backup fast bowler and P Shaw as a backup opener.
Likely Playing XI For Test Series
Virat Kohli will captain India during the Test series, and his deputy will be Rohit Sharma, who is likely to make his return for the South Africa series after being given a rest during the test series against New Zealand. Sharma will open with either M Agarwal or S Gill.
S Gill was the likely candidate to open with Sharma in South Africa, but M Agarwal made 150 runs in the first innings of the second Test to put his hand up to open with R Sharma. C Pujara will play at 3, Kohli at 4, and S Yadav or A Rahane will play at 5. The selectors are likely to play either H Pandya or H Vihari at 6, R Pant will bat at 7 if he passes a fitness test or, W Saha will take his place.
R Ashwin is likely to get the nod as the first-choice spinner and bat at 8, while the three pacers will be J Bumrah, I Sharma, and M Shami with M Siraj as a backup pacer.