India will be going to South Africa’s all-format tour with three teams, distinctly different from the other and led by three separate captains. This is happening, partly, because of the congested scheduling.

Indian batters Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma during the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 final between India and Australia(PTI)

However, with Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and KL Rahul continuing to stay out of the T20 scheme of things for now, the Ajit Agarkar-led selection committee has ensured that the Suryakumar Yadav-led new-look T20 team gets more opportunities to stake a claim for next year’s World Cup.

A note from the BCCI media release clarified that Sharma and Kohli had requested for a break from the entire white-ball tour. KL Rahul will be leading the ODI team.

After the ODI World Cup, opinions have been sharply divided whether this is the right time for India’s T20 batting makeup to undergo a transition, having twice failed at World Cup campaigns (2021 and 2022). For the June T20 World Cup, BCCI officials say, a decision one way or the other ‘will be taken later’.

The meeting was also attended by Rahul Dravid, who is set to coach India in the T20 World Cup after his contract was extended. While it is true that Sharma and Kohli deserved a break to be kept fresh for the seven big Test matches (five home Tests against England will follow the SA tour), they would have been asked to play the South African T20Is, if the selectors saw a clear role for them.


Yadav is only a stop-gap captaincy choice. The selectors are still waiting to see Hardik Pandya’s return to fitness from the ankle injury he sustained during the World Cup. The experienced Sharma, whose improved batting strike-rate helped India crush opponents in the ODI World Cup remains a part of the selector’s plans. With India scheduled to play only three more T20Is (against Afghanistan) after the South African tour, a call on the big names and their role could well be deferred until the beginning of IPL 2024.

With Ravindra Jadeja named T20 vice-captain and Axar Patel dropped, that’s one clear selection call on who is ahead in the race. Pacers Avesh Khan and Prasidh Krishna have made way for Mohammed Siraj and Deepak Chahar.


Jasprit Bumrah has understandably been kept away from the white-ball leg. He will spearhead the pace attack in the two-match Test series, where he has even been handed the vice-captainship. Bumrah last led India in the rescheduled decisive Edgbaston Test against England in 2022.

Like Bumrah, KL Rahul too returns to Test action. But, for now, whether he starts and where he bats has been left to the team management. A BCCI official confirmed Ishan Kishan is the front-runner to keep wickets. Kishan had begun his Test career in West Indies with a fifty to his name. KS Bharat has been dropped and goes back to playing the India A leg of the tour.

A decision on who should open with Sharma – Yashasvi Jaiswal, who had an impressive debut series against West Indies (266 runs, Avg 88.66 in 2 Tests) or Rahul has been left to the team management. Most of the Test regulars will be seen in action in the intra-squad tour game (Dec 20-22) that precedes the Boxing Day Test.


For Ajinkya Rahane, his return to Test cricket proved to be short lived. The 85-Test veteran was again dropped to make way for the fit-again Shreyas Iyer. After a five-month hiatus, Rahane had been recalled for the World Test Championship final against Australia, last year, where he made vital contributions (89 & 46).

But following two low scores in the West Indies Tests, the selectors have decided to move on. Cheteshwar Pujara continues to be sidelined. Although the two old batting hands have shown resilience to comeback before, they now seem to be completely out of the selector’s future plans.

In the middle-order, Iyer’s short-ball technique will be tested by South African pacers. There’s also KL Rahul who Sharma-Dravid may want to consider to bat at No 5.

Mohammed Shami would be a big miss, if he fails to recover from an undisclosed illness. Shardul Thakur, Krishna and Mukesh Kumar are the other pacers in the 16-men Test squad.

Other than Rahul, Kuldeep Yadav will be the only other member from India’s ODI World Cup squad for the three ODIs in South Africa that will follow the T20s.

This being a T20 World Cup year, plenty of deserving domestic performers like Sai Sudharsan, Rajat Patidar and Rinku Singh have been handed out international caps to build on their progress. Yuzvendra Chahal finds a ODI place after good showings in Vijay Hazare trophy.

The Indian team will depart for South Africa on December 6 with the T20s first-up (Dec 10-14), followed by the ODIs (Dec 17-21) and finally the two Tests (Dec 26-Jan 11) to be played. The Tests will be part of the new World Test Championship cycle. India got off to a winning start with a series win against West Indies (1-0). The South Africa tour also has two four-day A matches – other than the intra-squad match – where Bharat will be leading.