Former star spinner Harbhajan Singh picked Ravichandran Ashwin ahead of all-rounder Shardul Thakur for India’s upcoming Boxing Day Test clash against South Africa in Centurion. Harbhajan picked his ideal playing XI for the first Test as they look to change their bleak record on South African soil. Since 1992, India have played 23 Tests in South Africa and only won four and lost 12. Harbhajan who felt that India would need to post a competitive score of more than 400 went with a star-studded batting line-up.

“According to me Rohit Sharma and Yashasvi Jaiswal will open. Shubman Gill would come in at number three and the fourth spot will be for Virat Kohli. The fifth and sixth spots belong to Shreyas Iyer and KL Rahul respectively. For number seven Ravindra Jadeja but the biggest question comes at number 8 with Ashwin and Shardul available. I feel Ashwin should play at number 8 because you have Jasprit Bumrah for number 9, Siraj for 10 and Prasidh Krishna for 1,” Harbhajan said on his YouTube channel.

Harbhajan went on to back the spinner to take the number eight spot even though he does not see that happening himself.

“But here I feel the conditions will be hot, the pitch will be hard, the bounce will be there and you have three pacers so I think India should go with two spinners. I feel South Africa would love to place pace so I think you should play on your strength I feel Ashwin should play but I don’t see that happening,” Harbhajan added.

He backed the decision to pick Ashwin by comparing the situation that India faced during the World Test Championship final earlier this year.

At that time India picked Shardul ahead of Ashwin a decision which led to a lot of criticism. The veteran spinner backed India’s decision to pick Shardul at that time because the conditions favoured the team.

“The biggest debate is whether Shardul should play or Ashwin, this topic became a heated discussion during the World Test Championship. The conditions there were different because the ball seams on Day 1 so I feel Shardul was the right choice according to those conditions. There was a lot of grass on the wicket, even though he couldn’t make an impact I feel the decision was right,” Harbhajan said.

India’s squad for Tests: Rohit Sharma (C), Shubman Gill, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Ishan Kishan (wk), KL Rahul (Wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Mohd. Siraj, Mukesh Kumar, Mohd. Shami*, Jasprit Bumrah (VC), Prasidh Krishna.

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