Mayank Agarwal, Jayant Yadav, Shreyas Iyer and Mohammed Siraj are not the first-choice players in the Indian Test team, but all of them played key roles as India sealed a series victory against New Zealand with a 372-run triumph at the Wankhede Stadium here on Monday.
And within minutes of the match getting over, skipper Virat Kohli faced a question the players too would be asking themselves — what will happen to them once the regulars return to action? Will they get a chance in South Africa? Will the selectors repose faith in the tried and tested first-choice players, some of whom are struggling for some time now.
The 1-0 series win against New Zealand has shown that India has a strong bench strength and it presents a headache to the selection committee and the team management on how to make the most of this problem of plenty.
On Monday, skipper Kohli waded into the issue by saying that he will have a discussion with the selectors on whether to take players from the bench or give preference to first-choice players.
“Those are discussions we were going to have now with the selectors. It is a good headache to have. We have to have clarity with these things. Always good to know exactly what you want to do before heading into a series like South Africa,” Kohli said during the post-match press conference on Monday.
Agarwal came in for regular opener Rohit Sharma, who was rested after the T20 series against New Zealand, and he emerged the best batter in the second Test, scoring 150 and 62 respectively.
Siraj, brought in for an injured Ishant Sharma who was ineffective in Kanpur, ended up as the only pacer from both sides to take wickets in this Test, claiming three of the 37 wickets that fell.
Siraj was incisive, put in a lot of effort and moved the ball both ways, troubling the batters with his line and length. Jayant Yadav was included for Ravindra Jadeja, who was injured during the Kanpur Test. Though he bowled well in the New Zealand first innings, he produced a superb spell in the second essay on Monday, claiming four wickets for 19 runs in six overs.
In the first Test at Kanpur, Shreyas Iyer made his debut as Kohli was rested, and scored a century on debut and followed it up with a fifty in the second innings.
So, Kohli was asked whether players like Shubman Gill and Shreyas Iyer will get a chance in place of Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane, who have been struggling for months. The skipper said this is another issue that he will discuss with the selectors.
“Again that’s a discussion that needs to take place. Who we think are the specialists for certain positions and so on will be covered there. These aren’t things I can answer in a PC, we need to sit down with it and come to collective decisions. That’s the same process we will follow. Everyone puts in their ideas and then we make our decision,” said Kohli.
With Pujara failing to make the most of the chance to score a big one when he was sent as opener in the second innings, one option could be to use Agarwal or Shreyas Iyer in the middle or, with Kohli and Rahane, if he manages to retain his position, moved a spot up in the batting order.
With the selectors set to meet in the next few days to choose the team for the South Africa tour starting later this month, a clear picture will emerge soon. Till then, the players on the bench will remain on tenterhooks.