Jan 04, 2018
By MI Media
2017 was a fabulous year for Team India in all formats of the game. They enjoyed more success than they did in preceding years. India lost just the one Test match, to Australia at home. However, they played most of their matches in the subcontinent. The only tournaments or series they played outside were the Champions Trophy in England and the limited overs series in the West Indies. All the Test matches India played in 2017 were at home. Their overseas record hasn’t been the best in the past few years, and they have the opportunity to make amends and rectify some of it with a good start on their tour to South Africa which begins with the first Test in Cape Town.
The last time India toured South Africa for a Test series was late in 2013. The batting order back then wasn’t too different and many of the batsmen performed well. However, it was the bowling which wasn’t up to the mark on that tour. This time around, India boasts of a far better bowling attack, in pace to go with the reputation of having good spin attacks. The pace battery comprises of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah and Hardik Pandya to help out as an all-rounder. The Indian batsmen have been in prime form during the home season. Looking at the extended practice sessions that Murali Vijay and KL Rahul took part in, they could be the first choice openers for the first Test. Virat Kohli, who returns to the fold, could go in with five bowlers, but will have to make the tough choice of playing one of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. The other challenge is whether to pick the man in imperious form, Rohit Sharma over the reliable, Ajinkya Rahane.
Whatever combination Kohli opts for, this Indian team is quite strong and can give the Proteas a run for their money.
Moving on to the South African line-up, there are a few names that are making comebacks after a while. AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis will bolster the middle order, while Steyn has made a comeback to international cricket too. However, it isn’t likely that the record-breaking pacer will make the cut into the playing XI for the first Test. The opening combination Dean Elgar and Aiden Markram is what the Indians will look to tap into, with the relative lack of experience of the latter. South Africa will bank on their pace attack to blunt out the threat that the Indian batsmen pose. Keshav Maharaj has been in form right through 2017, but will be tested against the adventurous Indian batsmen.
Both teams have star-studded names and have achieved a lot of success in the past few years. Many members of both teams have been part of Test teams that have been the number 1 ranked side in the world. Some of them have been rusty as well, and will look to get back to what they do best in this series. We could be in for a finger-licking contest.
Newlands, Cape Town
The Newlands is traditionally known to be a fast bowler’s paradise. However, this year, there has been a shortage of water-supply in Cape Town and if the pitch doesn’t receive enough water, chances are that it could stay flat and batting-friendly. The Indians wouldn’t mind it, as they haven’t played a warm-up game on the tour.
Murali Vijay vs Vernon Philander
A patient batsman vs a patient bowler – that is the making of a perfect Test match battle at the start of an innings. Vijay loves leaving the ball outside his off stump when he comes in to bat, while Philander loves to bowl in the corridor, and make batsmen play as much as possible. Who will win this battle of patience?
Virat Kohli vs Morne Morkel
A lot of batsmen feel that Morne Morkel is a tough bowler to face, owing to his height and the awkward bounce he generates off a length. Kohli is in the peak of his form and will have to contend with Morkel’s bounce on the Newlands track. Will he resort to the pull or to swaying and ducking?
Bhuvneshwar Kumar vs Hashim Amla
Hashim Amla has always scored runs against India, both in South Africa and in India. He is only vulnerable to losing his wicket when he starts his innings. Bhuvneshwar Kumar will look to exploit the conditions and swing the ball both ways, to put Amla in early trouble.