The Indian selectors announced a 15-member squad to take on South Africa and 20-year old Punjab batsman Shubman Gill got a maiden call-up to the Indian side. He replaced KL Rahul in the Indian side, but chief selector MSK Prasad confirmed that Rohit Sharma will indeed open the innings along with Mayank Agarwal.
"Rohit has been selected in the side as an opener. He will open in the three matches and also for the Board President XI," Prasad said after the announcement of the side.
Expressing disappointment over the exclusion of Rahul, Prasad said that it was unfortunate that the right-hander could not find consistency.
"It is unfortunate that Rahul couldn't perform consistently. He played well in patches," he further added.
Rohit found support from other former players
Rohit's promotion in the batting order was on the cards and he found support from several quarters which included former Indian captain Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman. It has been a stop-start Test career for Rohit, and this change in the role could well turn the tide in his favour.
"There's a limited time you have as a player and I have finished almost half of it. There's no point in spending the remaining half thinking whether I'll be picked or not. I am going forward with the theory of 'whatever time I have, make it count'," Rohit had told PTI in an earlier interview.
Rohit will also have a chance to bolster his credentials as he was included in Board President's XI side and will also lead the side. It also includes Priyank Panchal, Abhimanyu Easwaran, Karun Nair and Siddhesh Lad. Umesh Yadav, who was axed from the Test squad, will be part of the warm-up clash. Avesh Khan, Ishan Porel and Shardul Thakur will be the other pacers picked for the match to be played in Vizianagaram from September 26.
"I had suggested earlier about trying Rohit Sharma as an opener in Test cricket and I still believe that he needs to be given an opportunity because he is too good a player to be left out in the cold," Sourav Ganguly had written in a column for The Times of India earlier this week.
India's 15-member squad: Virat Kohli (Capt), Mayank Agarwal, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (vc), Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant (wk),Wriddhiman Saha (wk), R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Shubman Gill