India and South Africa take on each other in a two-match Test series which starts on December 18. Abhijit Banare lists five things one can look forward to during the series.
The recently concluded three-match One-Day International (ODI) series between India and South Africa seemed more like an inconsequential T20 game. After a point, it is difficult to find interest in such encounters. Even the Indian team would be eager to put behind a forgettable performance after they were comprehensively thrashed by South Africa. However, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Co. have a stiffer challenge ahead of them. From being humbled in the ODIs, they now move into the Test series to face the No 1 ranked Test side. Indian fans would be hoping for a better show from their side.
Here are five interesting things to look forward to during the upcoming Test series :
The New Test No. 4 and batting revamp
Dhoni, though in jest, mentioned before the start of the series that he would like to leave out No 4 and take No 12 instead but the moment is finally here. One can point at this South African tour as India’s moment of completing the transition. The last of the fab four — Sachin Tendulkar — retired and the team has finally moved on. In all likelihood, Virat Kohli will fill into those big shoes. It isn’t just Kohli who would be tested, but the other young batsmen in the line-up would also have to prove their credentials in alien conditions. Cheteshwar Pujara , Kohli at No 4, followed by Rohit Sharma at No 5 will form India’s new line-up. Irrespective of anything, these are the players who are going to take India forward. With the amount of confidence they possess, these batsmen are going to leave no stone unturned to keep their team on top.
A fitter Zaheer Khan and Mohammed Shami.
He has not featured in the side for over a year. Yet a discussion on the Indian pace bowling is not complete without the mention of Zaheer being the spearhead. It was against the same opposition in 2006 that he made his comeback. There is a bit of déjà vu as a leaner and fitter Zaheer returns to South Africa — eyeing another comeback.. At the same time, Zaheer will be leading a relatively inexperienced bowling attack. Mohammed Shami will partner Zaheer and a lot is expected of him as he has done well for some time.
Zaheer Khan vs Graeme Smith
The funniest ‘duel; of 2013 was between Dale Steyn and Mohammad Hafeez. The latter was simply unable to get away from the world-class pacer. But this time around, a South African will be under pressure. Graeme Smith is well aware that the left-arm seamer has troubled him. Zaheer has dismissed him six times in nine Tests.
South Africa’s pace attack
South Africa’s owe a large part of their success to Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander who have ripped through many batting line-ups. The Indians in particular have already shown their tentative mindset at the start against a fiery Steyn. In the Tests, expect Steyn to bowl with a similar gameplan. The outswingers, the short balls etc. are going to continue and it will up to the batsmen to prepare themselves mentally. Dhoni has assured a better outing against the pace and bounce though.
Two digit team total
In the last two years, three formidable teams have been bundled for scores as low as 47, 45 and 49. Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan were the respective teams. Well, the Indians have already been packed for 76 once at home (Ahmadabad)in 2008! With the form the South African pacers are in, and the struggle of the Indian batsmen, the tourists would want to avoid the fate of some of the previous visitors to the Rainbow Nation.
(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)
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