4 reasons the Sri Lanka Test series is preparation for the South Africa tour
India will play two Tests against Sri Lanka in Nagpur and Delhi before they embark on a tour of South Africa.
India are currently en route to Nagpur for their second Test of the three-match Test series against Sri Lanka, and will face off against the Lions at the city's Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium.
Following Sri Lanka's tour of India, the team will Tour South Africa through January and February of 2017, leaving them with a very short gap before they resume play.
But several factors indicate that Sri Lanka's tour of India will be good preparation for their early 2018 tour of SA.
The search for the seamers begins
A grassy wicket is always helpful for seamers - and there is little doubt that captain Virat Kohli will want to play some quality pace against the big-hitting South African batsmen. In view of this, Kohli - and selectors - will await the return of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who is currently on hiatus for his impending wedding.
Although Bhuvneshwar sits out the remainder of the SL series, he will likely be expected to return for South Africa; he led the attack in the first Test against Sri Lanka, and earned Player of the Match for his 8 wickets and economical bowling, particularly in the second innings.
But given the bouncy, grassy pitches Shastri and Co are expecting in South Africa, India will specifically want a seam attacker rather than just pace, although pacers have been successful on the surface.
With no specific seamer currently on the squad, India could possibly look to Shardul Thakur who fits that bill well. The left-arm seamer has done well at Ranji and made his ODI debut against Sri Lanka this year, but does not have much Test experience. Thakur was named to India's Test squad for their tour of West Indies last year but remained on the bench, and so perhaps lacks international exposure.
But that does not necessarily mean he is out of form. The 26-year-old, who so far has had his biggest successes in first class cricket, led his team - Mumbai - to the Ranji Trophy title in the 2015-16 season with an eight-wicket haul against Saurashtra.
Thakur has also been active in the IPL, and although the format may not necessarily prepare him for the Tour, it has ensured he has not been absent from the game in terms of play or fitness.
Hyderabad bowler Mohammad Siraj also recently made his debut for India against New Zealand during the teams' T20 tournament in India, and like Thakur did well at Ranji cricket as well as the IPL. Siraj, although not a dedicated seamer, can bowl seam and did take a wicket on international debut. Younger than Thakur, Siraj is also relatively less experienced in that regard, but grooming both these players for seam will no doubt bolster India's bowling attack.