India captain Virat Kohli won the toss and opted to bat first against South Africa in the first Test of the Freedom Series at Centurion on Sunday. India fielded four bowlers, one all-rounder with struggling Ajinkya Rahane getting the nod ahead of Shreyas Iyer, who made a sensational debut during the New Zealand series at home.
At the toss, Kohli revealed that India will go with four front-line bowlers, with one all-rounder -- a deviation from his usual practice. Shardul Thakur, who has proved more than handy with the bat, comes in for veteran pacer Ishant Sharma.
"We are playing four bowlers and an all-rounder; Siraj, Shami, Bumrah, Ashwin and Thakur is the all-rounder," Kohli said.
With Rohit Sharma nursing an injury at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru, Mayank Agarwal gets his chance and he opens with returning KL Rahul. Cheteshwar Pujara, Kohli and Rahane complete the top five, then wicket-keeper Rishabh Pant comes in sixth.
Ravichandran Ashwin is the lone spinner. Thakur will share the pace duty with Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj.
Meanwhile, the Proteas handed pacer Marco Jansen a Test debut.
The Boxing Day Test at SuperSport Park starts India's rescheduled tour of South Africa 2021-22. The three-match Test series is part of the ongoing ICC World Test Championship 2021-23. The two teams will then play a three-match ODI series.
Here are the playing XIs
South Africa: Dean Elgar (c), Aiden Markram, Keegan Petersen, Rassie van der Dussen, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock (wk), Wiaan Mulder, Marco Jansen, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi.
India: KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Shardul Thakur, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj.