Fans react as Hanuma Vihari excluded from playing XI for 1st Test vs SA (Twitter/BCCI) Photograph:( Twitter )
Hanuma Vihari, who was one of the heroes of India's heroic last-day struggle to salvage the Sydney Test against Australia earlier this year, hasn't played in a Test match since.
On Sunday, India won the toss and elected to bat in the first Test against South Africa at SuperSport Park in Centurion.
India skipper Virat Kohli, who is aiming for a record away Test series win in South Africa, claimed the ground's history influenced his decision to bat.
Kohli stated at the time of the coin toss: "We will bat first. Runs on the board playing away home has been our strength. The pitch tends to quicken up here on Day 2-3. Our success away from home started from the series we played here last time. A very challenging place to play."
"South African unit always strong and they know the conditions. The prep has been wonderful. Quite lucky to get the centre-wicket practice. Siraj, Shami, Bumrah, Ashwin and Thakur is the all-rounder," he added.
However, cricket lovers were disappointed and astonished by the absence of middle-order batsman Hanuma Vihari, who did not play in the New Zealand series at home and instead travelled to South Africa with India A to prepare for the series.
Vihari, who was one of the heroes of India's heroic last-day struggle to salvage the Sydney Test against Australia earlier this year, hasn't played in a Test match since.
While fans speculated that this may be former vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane's last opportunity, he hasn't been in great form this year, having played 13 games and scored 411 runs at an average of 19.67, with only two scores in excess of 50. Following that, he was replaced as Virat Kohli's deputy in Test matches by Rohit Sharma.
KL Rahul will be the series' vice-captain after Rohit was ruled out due to a hamstring injury.
One of the heartbroken user wrote, 'You don't want to be Vihari right now, do you? Doesn't get an opportunity to score home test runs, instead gets sent to SA to get acclimatised for the tour. Does really well for Ind A, scoring 3 50s. Now doesn't get picked for the test. What a raw deal!'
You don't want to be Vihari right now, do you? Doesn't get an opportunity to score home test runs, instead gets sent to SA to get acclimatised for the tour. Does really well for Ind A, scoring 3 50s. Now doesn't get picked for the test. What a raw deal! 💔 #INDvsSA— Srini Mama (@SriniMaama16) December 26, 2021
'Where is Vihari?', asked another user.
More such anguished and disappointed reactions were seen:
Vihari may soon be sent to England. To prepare for last Test of that series.— Siddhartha Vaidyanathan (@sidvee) December 26, 2021
Vihari has every right to feel "crushed" doesn't mean he is insecure or anything.. this is part of parcel of being in a highly competitive field.. his mental being needs to be managed well at this point.. Hope it's being taken care of..— SMM (@Shhy10) December 26, 2021
Vihari scored 227 runs at an average of 75.66, including 3 fifties against South Africa 'A' ahead of this series. What a nice way to say that no matter whatever you do, it doesn't count 👏🏻#SAvIND— Prasenjit Dey (@CricPrasen) December 26, 2021
Vihari made three fifty-plus scores in the recent A tour of South Africa, same as what Rahane has done in his last 17 Tests dating back to late 2019.#SAvIND— Rohit Sankar (@imRohit_SN) December 26, 2021
Not everyone can repeat what Vihari and Ashwin did. That's why I feel bad for the treatment that Vihari has got after saving that series on one leg!— ayaan. (@AyanMusk) December 20, 2021
Tall left-arm fast bowler Marco Jansen, 21, made his debut for South Africa.
"He's had a lot of success against the India A side, he hit quite a few of their batters," South African skipper Dean Elgar said.
Jansen's presence meant that fast bowler Duanne Olivier, who had returned to the South African team after three seasons as a Kolpak player in England, won't be in the playing XI.
South Africa: Dean Elgar (capt), Aiden Markram, Keegan Petersen, Rassie van der Dussen, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock (wkt), Wiaan Mulder, Marco Jansen, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi.
India: Virat Kohli (capt), Mayank Agarwal, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Risabh Pant (wkt), Ravichandran Ashwin, Shardul Thakur, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj.
Umpires: Marais Erasmus, Adrian Holdstock (both RSA).
TV umpire: Allahuddien Paleker (RSA).
Match referee: Andy Pycroft (ZIM).