Batting great VVS Laxman on Saturday (December 2) said India should opt for Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay ahead of KL Rahul as openers during their tour to South Africa, starting January 5 in Cape Town.
The former middle-order batsman, who represented the country in 134 Tests and 86 ODIs, also added that Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who had asked to be released from the squad after the Kolkata Test, will automatically make his way back into the side in South Africa.
Mohammed Shami and comeback man Ishant Sharma, who impressed with five wickets in the Nagpur Test, will also be part of the three-man pace attack, according to Laxman. He also said India will opt for only one spinner in South Africa, making room for an extra batsman.
"I feel that in Cape Town, you'll have Shikhar and Vijay opening. Shami should be playing. He missed out [in Nagpur] because of a niggle. Umesh [Yadav] was just a little out of sorts [in the first two Tests]," Laxman said during a television show ahead of the ongoing third Test in Delhi.
He added: "I am happy that Ishant is being continued with. Nagpur was the best I have seen him bowl in a long time. He has improved, his wrist position has improved. That was something he had been working on for a long time.
"They [Shami and Ishant] are two quality bowlers, along with Bhuvneshwar Kumar when he comes back. This will be the playing XI, barring one of the spinners. Bhuvneshwar will come back."
Team India's focus on South Africa tour
Even as India are facing Sri Lanka in the ongoing three-Test series, the hosts, including captain Virat Kohli, have been looking ahead to the challenging away tour.
While lamenting about the lack of preparation time, the skipper even said the team will be looking to use the Sri Lanka series to warm-up for South Africa. The tracks at all three venues, as per the team management's request, has had a tinge of green, intended to help the home team play in simulated conditions.
A lot has also been said about India's problem of plenty as the team has a solid bench strength both in the bowling and the batting departments.
India were forced to make a couple of tough calls on Saturday as in-form Rahul was left out of the squad after Dhawan returned to the playing XI following his absence from the team in the Nagpur Test. Also, Umesh, who has been quite impressive in the recent past, was dropped to accommodate a fit-again Shami.
With Rohit Sharma retaining his spot after a century in Nagpur, he is likely to make it to the playing XI as the sixth specialist batsmen in South Africa as well. Fast-bowling all-rounder Hardik Pandya, who is expected to play a key role in away conditions, may have to wait for his chances on the road.
Laxman's playing XI for South Africa Tests
Virat Kohli (c), Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), R Ashwin/Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar