Shubman Gill earned his maiden call-up to India’s Test squad. @Facebook

KL Rahul was dropped from India‘s Test squad for the upcoming South Africa Test series starting October 2 while young Shubman Gill earned a maiden Test call-up in the 15-member squad for the three-match series that was announced today in New Delhi.

The MSK Prasad-led selection panel also dropped Umesh Yadav, who was a part of the Test squad in West Indies while the rest of the squad remains the same.

“Issue right now, we couldn’t have Umesh here as it will be two seamers who will play. If it’s really a seaming track, we go for the third one. So Umesh may not play. For him, it is better to play domestic cricket as we are in domestic season. He is in India A side,” Prasad said.

Rahul’s axing was in the offing after the Karnataka batsman failed to register substantial scores in West Indies, extending his run of inconsistent form, while Gill made a strong case for selection with a 90 for India A against South Africa A in the 1st unofficial Test that ended earlier today.

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Prasad also confirmed Rohit Sharma will be opening the innings alongside Mayank Agarwal. “Yes, we are definitely looking at him (Rohit) and want to give him an opportunity up the order. He is keen (on opening) and the selection committee as well as everyone (team management) is keen. We want to see where he stands and then take a call,”  said Prasad.

“He is opening in white-ball cricket for a decade now (for six years) and I am sure he has that ability to bat up the order. We have seen that in red ball cricket and if he can replicate that in white ball cricket, nothing like it,” Prasad added.

Sharma, in his 27-Test old career has never opened the innings and this could be the last chance for the 32-year-old to revive his fledgling red-ball career.

The ODI behemoth, who made his Test debut in 2013, has managed 1585 runs at 39.62 with three centuries and ten fifties to his name. He had a great start to his Test career scoring 177 on debut in Kolkata and followed it up with 111 in Mumbai – both against West Indies.

Read this story in Hindi: भारतीय टीम का ऐलान, केएल राहुल की छुट्टी, इस युवा को मिला मौका

Rahul has been struggling since his last Test hundred at the Oval in September 2018, registering seven single digit scores and has failed to go past the 50-run mark in 12 innings. On the other hand, Agarwal, only four Tests old, has given a good account of himself with three fifty plus scores in seven innings.

Prasad stated that the selectors have communicated with Rahul. “We definitely communicated to KL. He is an exceptional talent and unfortunately his form has dipped in red-ball cricket,” Prasad said.

“With Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay gone, we can’t keep changing both the openers in the side. Someone had to stick around. And probably with seniors, who exiting, KL got more opportunities. Unfortunately, he was not delivering consistently. He delivered in patches and that’s why we backed him because when he is on song, he is treat to watch,” added Prasad.

“When VVS Laxman was once dropped from the Indian team, he went back to domestic cricket, scored 1400 runs in the Ranji Trophy and came back. KL has to do the same,” continued Prasad.

The chairman of selectors also highlighted that they have built a good pool of openers and whoever gets an opportunity will enjoy a long rope.

“So you know, in the pipeline, Shubman is opening and we have Priyank Panchal and Abhimanyu Easwaran, who is doing extremely well. From the available lot, we will look at giving them as many opportunities. Whoever gets an opportunity, also gets a fair run. We have alternatives and back-ups, we have created bench strength,” Prasad said.

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Hardik Pandya, who was rested for the WI series, also failed to make the cut for the SA Test series with the selectors opting for spin allrounders in Ravindra Jadeaja and Ravichandran Ashwin.

“Hardik is not in the side because if you look at home conditions, he may not fit in. Also a lot of white ball cricket being played, it’s a culmination of both,” said Prasad while discussing Pandya’s exclusion from the squad.

The pace unit remains the same with Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma and Mohammd Shami in the squad while Kuldeep Tadav retains his place as the third spinner. Rishabh Pant will continue to be the first choice wicketkeeper with Wriddhiman Saha as the backup.

“My answer is same. Let’s see. Rishabh definitely to begin with but we will see whether the team management thinks on those lines. Let’s leave it to them. Also in India, we need a ‘keeper with some more skills playing at home, let’s see how it goes,” Prasad said.

The Test series starts in Visakhapatnam and Pune will host the second Test, starting October 10. The third Test will be played in Ranchi from October 19.

India’s squad for 3 Tests: Virat Kohli (Captain), Mayank Agarwal, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (vice-captain), Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant (Wicket-keeper), Wriddhiman Saha (Wicket-keeper), Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Shubman Gill