Team India all-rounder Hardik Pandya is back to his best in international cricket.

Team India’s head coach Rahul Dravid, while taking charge of the side, had made it clear that workload management would be an extremely important aspect of his job. He did not directly claim that India will have different teams for different formats. At the same time, he did concede that there are cricketers who will play only in certain formats. Dravid explained that players’ mental health must be given priority keeping in mind the long-term future of cricketers. In the wake of the Indian coach’s statement on workload management, we look at players likely to be a part of the Indian team in the Test format on a consistent basis.

Top-order: Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Shubman Gill

Following their success in England, Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul should be the preferred openers in the Test format. They were brilliant with their application and temperament in tough English conditions. Both are unavailable for the New Zealand series at home, but India will be hoping they would be back for the South Africa series. The two Tests against New Zealand at home will give Mayank Agarwal and Shubman Gill a chance to throw their hat in the ring for the openers’ spot. In case, either of Rohit or Rahul are unavailable for the South Africa series, India would be hoping Agarwal and Gill are ready to take up the challenge.

Middle-order: Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara, Hanuma Vihari, Shreyas Iyer, Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant

India’s middle-order in Tests has been massive cause of concern over the last two years. Skipper Virat Kohli hasn’t scored a hundred in two years, Cheteshwar Pujara’s last century came in January 2019 while Ajinkya Rahane has done precious little apart from the Boxing Day Test ton against Australia last year. India are likely to continue with the trio in the middle-order but they will be massively challenged during the tour of South Africa. In case they are unable to deliver, question marks will be raised over their places in the team.

Under Dravid, a hard trier like Hanuma Vihari is expected to get enough chances to grab his place in the middle-order. With the trio of Kohli, Pujara and Rahane nearing the wrong side of the 30s, India need to start grooming the next generation. Shreyas Iyer is one name for sure. Suryakumar Yadav is already 31 but he could also end up playing a few Tests if he maintains form and fitness. Rishabh Pant will be expected to handle the middle-order duties as wicketkeeper-batter for the next decade, unless something goes horribly wrong.

All-rounders: Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Washington Sundar

Ravindra Jadeja is the first name on any Indian XI these days irrespective of the format. With his all-round skills, he is likely to be a regular in the Tests as well. Already 30, Shardul Thakur has been a late bloomer. However, he was hugely impressive with both bat and ball in England. Thakur is a hard-working and committed cricketer, the kind of bloke who could flourish under Dravid. Washington Sundar has been suffering with injury issues of late. But he too should be in the scheme of things in the long run.

Bowlers: Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Ravichandran Ashwin, Axar Patel, Umesh

Yadav, Ishant Sharma

India have some high-quality options in the pace department. Jasprit Bumrah will be the leader of the attack while Mohammed Shami just seems to be getting better with age. Mohammed Siraj has impressed with his attitude and skills in the few Tests that he has played. Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav may have fallen behind in the pecking order, but they still have a couple of years of cricket left in them. In the spin department, Ravichandran Ashwin is likely to remain the lead bowler, at least at home. He can expect better treatment away from home with Dravid coming into the set up. Axar Patel has been brilliant at home but it remains to be seen whether the can perform away.

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