MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 30: Virat Kohli of India looks on during day five of the Third Test match between Australia and India at Melbourne Cricket Ground on December 30, 2014 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

Headlining the international tours this summer is India's tour of South Africa, due to take place in December and January.

The two sides will play a much-anticipated three-Test series, followed by three ODIs - with the three-match T20 series cancelled amidst Covid-19 concerns in South Africa.

India have never won a Test series in South Africa, with their last tour there occurring in the 2017-18 season. They will be looking to add to their tally of away series victories after defeating Australia (2-1 in a four-game series) in Australia for the first time.

Virat Kohli will lead the Test side, after recently being stripped of the white-ball captaincy, and remains confident his side is well placed off the back of a successful Australian tour in 2020/21.

“South Africa is one place where we have not won a series yet. We are very motivated to do that and the mindset is always (to) go out there and win a series in any country that we play. We don’t anymore just think of winning a Test match in India,” Kohli said.

India's major challenges in the series will be the selection headaches faced in their batting order, as well as whether their seam bowlers will be able to take 20 wickets on the faster, bouncier South African wickets.

With Ravindra Jadeja, Shubman Gill and now Rohit Sharma now ruled out of the tour, it looks as though five Indian batters will be vying for four middle-order spots, while India's seam bowlers will be looking to replicate recent overseas tours.

Shreyas Iyer took his opportunity for India against New Zealand in the middle order, scoring 105 and 65 on debut at number five in November. Although, Hanuma Vihari (who has previously occupied the No.5 spot) was left out of the New Zealand series to play for India A in preparedness for the Test tour of South Africa. He readied himself excellently by scoring 25, 54, 72*, 63 and 13* in three four-day games in Bloemfontein.

It even puts veterans Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane in a vulnerable position to retain their sports, especially after Rahane missed the second Test in New Zealand's recent tour to India.

Indian batter Cheteshwar Pujara has faith in his side's fast bowling prospects, led by Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Siraj.

"Our fast bowlers have been the difference between the sides overall when we have played abroad. If you look at the Australia and England series, we have done exceptionally well as a bowling unit," he said.

"Our fast bowlers are our strength (in South Africa) and I hope they can utilise the conditions and give us 20 wickets in each Test."

Meanwhile, South Africa have not played any red-ball cricket since June, with this series their first in the 2021-2023 World Test Championship cycle. Cricket South Africa's premier four-day franchise competition has also been postponed to 2022 due to Covid-19. The Proteas have only played six Tests since the pandemic began for a record of four wins, six losses (no draws).

South Africa will be turning to their fast bowling strengths as a key point of difference in this series to halt a very strong Indian side. The bowling pack will be led by Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje, and is bolstered by the additions of Duanne Olivier and Lungi Ngidi.

At 25, Ngidi has only played ten Tests in four years, suffering several potential career-ending injuries, and now enters the home summer with no competitive games having caught Covid-19. He's taken 32 wickets in ten Tests with an average of 23.31.

South Africa's bowling coach, Charl Langeveldt is buoyed by the prospects of him playing a part and bowling more in this series.

"The big thing with Lungi is making sure he bowls a lot more than he used to, because he started playing international cricket a bit later than a guy like KG [Rabada]," Langeveldt said.

"The big thing is getting bowling-fit. That's the key for Lungi. The more overs he bowls, the less niggles he gets."

A lot of the focus will also be on Olivier as his form propelled him back into the squad. He leads the first-class wicket tally in South Africa, having taken 28 wickets including two five-wicket hauls.

Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram, Rassie van der Dussen, Temba Bavuma and Quinton de Kock will provide the backbone of the batting order. Although, Quinton de Kock will miss "at least the third Test" on paternity leave, with Kyle Verreynne and Ryan Rickelton on standby to replace him.

Tour Schedule
First Test: December 26-30
Second Test: January 3-7
Third Test: January 11-15

Thee-match ODI series: January 19, 21, 23

India’s Test squad: Virat Kohli (Captain), Rohit Sharma (vice-captain), KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Shreyas Iyer, Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant (wk), Wriddhiman Saha (wk), R Ashwin, Jayant Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Mohd. Shami, Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Shardul Thakur, Md. Siraj.

South Africa Test Squad: Dean Elgar (c), Temba Bavuma (vc), Quinton de Kock (wk), Kagiso Rabada, Sarel Erwee, Beuran Hendricks, George Linde, Keshav Maharaj, Lungi Ngidi, Aiden Markram, Wiaan Mulder, Anrich Nortje, Keegan Petersen , Rassie van der Dussen , Kyle Verreynne , Marco Jansen , Glenton Stuurman , Prenelan Subrayen , Sisanda Magala, Ryan Rickelton, Duanne Olivier

ODI squads are yet to be announced.