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By Aayush Puthran
Shrouds of uncertainty and fear are bound to linger in spaces unknown, where the conditions are alien. There has been little wrong as far as India’s performance is concerned over the last few months. They conquered the world battle at the ICC Champions Trophy 2013, registered series victories in West Indies and Zimbabwe; and the rest, to put it in mild terms, demolished oppositions at home. Yet as they play on the African shores, there seems a certain sense of apprehension. Despite being ranked number one in One-Day Internationals (ODI), they won’t really walk into the series as favourites.
Dhoni comes to the country, much like he did in 2007 during the World T20, with a bunch of youngsters, most of who were untested in those conditions, yet prevailed like mighty champions. The only difference is that in 2007, not much was expected of the unit following the World Cup debacle earlier that year. However, this time if they fail, questions are bound to be raised over the quality of the young squad in tough conditions.
For as much as the form of the Indian top-order would’ve given the team management an exhilarating rush over the last few months, South African conditions won’t be the same. Not to say that the conditions won’t be conducive for batting, but the batsmen need to adjust; feel friendly with the bounce and cut on their naturally front foot play. And most importantly for that they need to be willing to temper their game down; runs won’t be too tough to come by.
Someone from the exuberant bunch needs to take over the mantle of seniority. At present, Virat Kohli seems the right candidate for that. As much as he has shown wild aggression in his body language, he has displayed great maturity in his batting. He has adapted extremely well to changing conditions and also the demands of the match situation.
Despite the fact that Yuvraj Singh and Dhoni are senior to him in terms of experience, Kohli seems an ideal fit for the upcoming series.
While Yuvraj is trying to find his lost rhythm, Dhoni is yet to show his class in South Africa. He averages a dismal 21.70 in South Africa from 12 matches. Yuvraj too hasn’t fared too well in the 22 ODIs he has played in the country where he has scored at an average of less than 25.
Kohli, on the other hand, not only has an excellent track record in South Africa, but also comes into the series with abundant confidence. This time, however, he can’t simply be his exuberant self. He needs to play the anchor’s role by relying on quick singles and twos to build his innings for the team’s cause.
The series would also be an ideal platform for the like of Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina who have prospered in less testing conditions so far. Dhawan may have scored a scintillating double ton when India A toured the Rainbow Nation earlier in the year, but it was when he was presented with flat tracks and a bowling attack that is far removed from the class of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel.
If the Indian batting adjusts well to what will be on offer from the opposition, in all likelihood India could walk out with their first 50-over series win in South Africa; and most importantly a much confident side for the 2015 World Cup.
(Aayush Puthran is a reporter with CricketCountry. Mercurially jovial, pseudo pompous, perpetually curious and occasionally confused, he is always up for a light-hearted chat over a few cups of filter kaapi!)
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