Captain Virat Kohli said Team India's decision to hand Jasprit Bumrah his Test debut in the ongoing first Test of the three-match series against South Africa in Cape Town was influenced by the limited-over specialist's performances in the preparations and his ability to "bowl a really heavy ball".
The visitors surprised quite a few with bold selection calls after losing the toss in the much-anticipated Test, which signals the start of India's busy overseas schedule in the next 18 months.
While Rohit Sharma was prefered over out-of-form vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane for the middle-order sport, Bumrah and all-rounder Hardik Pandya were included ahead of senior pacers Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav.
'Bumrah most impressive seamer'
Kohli shed light on Bumrah's limited-over exploits and said the team was excited to hand him the Test debut on the pace-rich Newlands track. The Gujarat fast bowler had featured in 26 first-class matches, picking up 89 wickets at an impressive average of 25.33.
"Jasprit Bumrah is making his Test debut. He has come a long way and he has done really well in limited-overs cricket. He is bowling a really heavy ball and he has been the most impressive seamer here in our preparations," Kohli said at the toss on Friday, January 5.
He added: "We are very excited to have him start his Test career today and wish him all the best."
Bumrah, who is the number three and number four-ranked bowler in ODI and T20I respectively, was expected to be a part of the Indian squad for the three-Test series against Sri Lanka at home in December.
However, he did not get a chance against Sri Lanka but made it to the 17-man squad for the ongoing South Africa Tests. Even as he was expected to make his debut later in the series, the team management opted to slot him into the playing XI as early as in the opening Test.
Sunil Gavaskar lauds India's 'surprise' selection
Meanwhile, Sunil Gavaskar lauded Team India's selection, which according to him, is aimed at throwing a surprise at the South Africans, who have not seen seen Bumrah with the red ball.
Bumrah seems to offer variety to the Indian pace attack with his awkward bowling action. Like Kohli mentioned, he hits the bat hard and is capable of bowling at a higher pace than Bhuvneshwar and Shami.
This is going to be a fantastic opportunity for the Indians to show they are the number one team. We are playing on pitches that offers a little bit of help for the pacers.
"The challenge for the bowlers though is to bowl the right lines and lengths. They should pitch it up as the ball will move a bit more than it does in India.
"The reason behind this [Bumrah's selection] could be the surprise factor. Not too many people would have expected it, none of us really expected it. This is a surprise factor the Indians have thrown at the South Africans," Gavaskar said during a TV analysis show on Friday.
He added: "South Africans might have seen him with the white ball, but with the red ball he will do a lot more than what he does with the white ball. In a way, it is a very very good move to get Bumrah into the playing XI."