The New Year brings in new hopes for Indian cricket team fans. The year 2023 promised a lot for India for there were heartbreaks too. The losses in the finals of the World Test Championship and the ODI Cricket World Cup were heavy blows for the team. 2023 ended on a sour note for the Rohit Sharma-led team as it lost by an Innings and 32 runs in the first Test against South Africa. The second and final Test of the series starts on January 3 and they have to win it to draw the series.

Former Indian cricket team predicted two changes that might take place in India’s playing XI.

“My Playing XI would be not too many changes. Ravindra Jadeja, once he is fit, will probably walk back into the team at the expense of Ravichandran Ashwin. That’s what it is looking to be because Ravichandran Ashwin was hardly used in the previous game. There could be a change in the new ball bowling too with Mukhesh Kumar coming in place of Prasidh Krishna,” Sunil Gavaskar told Star Sports.

Team India’s humiliating 3-day loss in the first Test against South Africa sent shockwaves across the cricketing spectrum. Multiple greats of the game and pundits questioned the team’s preapredness for the tour, with the legendary Sunil Gavaskar highlighting the absence of practice matches as one of the biggest reasons behind the result embarrasing result. Gavaskar even called India’s intra-squad matches a ‘joke’ as he lambasted Rohit Sharma and the team management’s decision to not play First Class practice matches before the start of the 2-match series.

“The reasons are straightforward – you didn’t play any matches here. If you straightaway play Test matches, it doesn’t work out. Yes, you sent the India A team. The India A team should actually come before the tour,” he said on Star Sports.

“You need to play practice matches after coming here. Intra-squad is a joke because would your fast bowlers bowl extremely fast to your batters, would they bowl bouncers, as they would be scared about injuring their batters,” he said.

The argument the team management often gives behind the decision to not play First Class Tests is the difference between practice pitches and match pitches. But, Gavaskar feels practice matches are crucial, espeically for young players to step up to the challenge.

“So it’s better to play against the South Africa A team or play two or three matches against a county or a state. The schedule that is made these days, where you play only Test matches with a gap of seven days in between – remove the ‘workload’ word from Indian cricket’s dictionary.”

“Nothing happens to senior cricketers. They will play the second, third and fourth match even if they fail. Practice matches are necessary for the young players. If you want, you can ask your senior players to come at ease, they can come a day before the Test match, but you need to arrange practice matches for the young players,” he said.

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