Second Test: Parthiv, Rahul set to play; Ishant may replace Bhuvi

k-l-rahul-test-afp K.L. Rahul takes part in a training session at Supersport Park cricket ground in Centurion ahead of the second Test against South Africa | AFP

The Indian team management is all set to drop wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha and opener Shikhar Dhawan from the playing XI for the second Test against South Africa but chances of Ajinkya Rahane's comeback look highly unlikely.

It is learnt that the conditions in Centurion may not aid swing bowling and Ishant Sharma could be considered in place of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, despite his six-wicket match haul and a gritty 25 in the first Test.

However, the Ishant-Bhuvneshwar swap is still not confirmed even though the other two changes are more or less certain.

Gujarat wicketkeeper-batsman Parthiv Patel, who is acknowledged as a far more accomplished batsman than Saha, is set to get a look-in along with Karnataka opener K.L. Rahul.

Dhawan's susceptible technique in bouncy and seaming conditions has been under the scanner and Rahul, who had hit his maiden Test hundred in Australia, is considered to be more well equipped technically.

Parthiv last played against England and scored 195 runs in three Test matches, when Saha was injured.

"The team management understands that they need to shore up the batting. Apart from his 878 Test runs in 23 Tests, his first-class average is phenomenal. He has more than 10,000 runs with 26 centuries. The team management couldn't have possibly avoided that," a senior BCCI official, who is privy to team management's decision, said.

Rahul has played 21 Tests, scoring 1,428 runs at an average of 44.62 with four hundreds and 10 half-centuries.

He is one of the only three Indian batsmen in international cricket who have got hundreds across all formats—the other two being Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma.

The logic behind bringing back Ishant seems to be his ability to bowl long spells of around 11-12 overs. The team management is well aware that the kookaburra seam wears out easily. Ishant could be used more as a restrictive option rather than an attacking one.

Also, Mohammed Shami, with his dodgy knee, and Jasprit Bumrah, with a stressful action, need to be used judiciously.

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