Studded with deadlier warriors and loaded with more experience, this Indian side looks capable enough to coat its dreadful Test record in South Africa Team. Back in 2013, they did have a combatant battalion but lack of experience had been the prime reason to their fiasco. Kohli’s men are now looking forward to razing the stigma of never winning a Test series in Africa, no matter what it will take in rather unfamiliar conditions.
Flashbacks of India’s previous failures to Proteas haven’t been gone by the board yet. The pang of that disappointing tour is still somewhere alive in the back of players’ mind. They last toured South Africa in 2013 for three ODIs and two Tests. The ODI series was a one-sided affair as it started with two big losses. Africa won the first two games by 141 and 134 runs respectively. Since the last ODI was a no-result game, the hosts sealed the three-match series 2-0.
India then moved to Johannesburg for the first Test with no burden of expectations. Team’s morale was down, butVirat Kohli brought thrill to the game scoring 181-ball 119 in the first innings. Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma, too, backed Kohli’s combative efforts. They shared a combined figure of 8 wickets to bundle the opponents out for 244, 36 runs short of the first innings lead. In the second innings, it was Cheteshwar Pujara who stood with a stunning 153-run knock drafting Proteas to chase 458 runs. Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers fought hard to raft, but once they dismissed, the rest played for a draw. After the see-saw battle had ended in a draw, Durban witnessed a lopsided second Test that Africa won by 10 wickets.
Around half a decade after, India have again flown to Africa for what is going to be one of their toughest assignments in 2018. The next one-and-a-half month will definitely be a reality check for the world’s No. 1 Test nation. Kohli’s men are coming off a record home season with 14 bilateral-series wins in pocket. What is worth pondering here is that most of those victories came home.
A new set of challenges awaits Kohli & Co. in South Africa. The biggest threat to them will be the pace foursome of Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel. These four together constitute a lethal bowling attack in favorable home conditions. The extra bounce at a pace of more than 140 is something India needs to reckon with. Although promising, Indian batsmen can take a couple of innings to adapt to the unfamiliar conditions. Virat Kohli, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane will have added responsibilities as they were to Africa in 2013. What else will keep India on the job? Africa’s balanced bating line-up will measure India’s bowling prowess.
The visitors have the likes of Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah in their bowling arsenal. Three out of these five pacers have rich bowling experience in Africa. Bumrah, who is set to make his Test debut, will be the man in focus on this tour. Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, the only two spinners aren’t supposed to do much with the ball on pace-friendly wickets. India cannot dream of winning the Test series without a meaningful contribution from each player.