India rests skipper Rohit Sharma but South Africa puts the boot to Temba Bavuma

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It’s a tale of two captains. India’s Rohit Sharma and South Africa’s Temba Bavuma.

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They will not face each other in the white-ball formats of the game during India’s tour of South Africa later this month.

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India’s selectors wasted little time in acceding to their captain’s request for a break while the Proteas counterparts took a different approach: They just dumped Bavuma, but retained him as captain for the two Tests.

Sharma was brilliant with the bat and his captaincy during India’s World Cup run as it won 10 straight matches before unexpectedly going down to Australia in the final.

Sharma will be joined on the sidelines by the tournament’s top scorer, Virat Kohli. Both requested a break and they were also excluded from the five-match Twenty20s against Australia that followed the World Cup.

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Many will not be surprised that Bavuma was left out as his bat went into cold storage during the World Cup, but his Proteas were one of the most exciting teams in the tournament. Many believed the Proteas would finally break the jinx of not winning this trophy and it went down fighting before being eliminated in the semis by eventual champion Australia.

The bats that flourished earlier on failed against the Aussies as the Proteas were dismissed for a paltry 212. They did make life difficult for the Aussies, who were taken to the wire as they managed 215 for seven in 47.2 overs.

South Africa’s Test coach Shukri Conrad and Rob Walter, who looks after the white ball squads, agreed with the decision to sit Bavuma.

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“There’s no change, he’s the skipper of the ODI side. He’s been phenomenal throughout the year,” Walter said. “Also, there’s a mental toll to the pressures of a World Cup and the scrutiny of a skipper through all of that. So, it’s important for him to be able to step away from the game for a little while and just prioritize being ready for the Test matches.”

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We find this excuse a little hard to fathom, especially when one is familiar with the history of the game in South Africa.

Bavuma has been replaced by hard-hitting Aiden Markram and he is an excellent choice.

It will be interesting to see what holds for Sharma and Kohli with the Twenty20 World Cup on the horizon in 2024. Neither has played in T20s in 2023 and, if Sharma is kept out, it looks likely Hardik Pandya will assume the captaincy.

A sore ankle kept Pandya out of the World Cup final and Suryakumar Yadav filled in admirably against Australia and he will also captain on this South African tour.

KL Rahul will lead India in the ODIs and Sharma returns as skipper for the Test that starts on Boxing Day at Centurion with the second on Jan. 3 in Cape Town. Prior to the two Tests, the two nations compete in three ODIs and three Twenty20 encounters.

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There’s a great deal riding on the Tests for the visitors as it has never won a Test series in the Rainbow Nation.

SAME OLD ENGLAND

Jos Buttler thought the sunshine and the beautiful beaches in the West Indies would be a good place to take off to after the humiliation suffered in the World Cup.

But the sunshine did little to help the English against a squad that did not even qualify for the World Cup. In fact, it has given Buttler and his squad an even bigger headache.

A new-look England posted an imposing 325 in the first ODI at the Sir Viv Richards Stadium in Antigua and little did it expect Shai Hope’s team would chase this total down with seven balls to spare.

Hope smashed three huge sixes in four balls to finish unbeaten on 109, Romario Shepherd weighed in with 48 and the Windies’ latest opening sensation 24-year-old Alick Athanaze blasted nine fours and two sixes in his 66.

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For England, Harry Brook lived up to his billing with a superb 71 and Zak Crawley made 48.

Hopefully, this is a new start for the Windies, whose management is desperately trying to repair relationships with their senior players who believe they have been mistreated.

“Gone are the days when you played for love,’’ former international and white-ball coach Darren Sammy said. “Love doesn’t buy you groceries.”

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NEW ZEALAND STUNNED

After a pathetic showing in the World Cup, Bangladesh got back to winning ways by stunning New Zealand in first of two Tests at home.

The victory by a massive 150 runs means a draw in the second Test will see Bangladesh register a historic series win against the 2021 World Test Championship winners and semifinalists in the World Cup.

The home team must thank left-arm spinner Taijul Islam and skipper Najmul Hossain Shanto, who carved out a superb 105 in the second innings for the win. Bangladesh scored 310 and 338 and New Zealand made 317 and 181. Islam took four for 40 in the first innings and six for 75 in the second.

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