By Nishad Pai Vaidya
Dec 17, 2013
India take their first real step in the post Sachin Tendulkar era with the first Test against South Africa at the Wanderers, Johannesburg on Wednesday. Coming into this series on the back of a 2-0 drubbing in the One-Day Internationals (ODIs), India have a huge task ahead of them and would require a herculean effort to play well. India have selected a crop of youngsters this time around and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, and Zaheer Khan have the job of guiding this team.
India have a more or less a settled batting line-up and it is only that No 4 spot which had caused debate. Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay would open the batting with Cheteshwar Pujara coming in at No 3. Pujara has played two Tests in South Africa before and failed to perform. This is his chance to prove his credentials in tough surfaces, against a good bowling attack. Virat Kohli will bat at No 4 with Rohit Sharma coming in at No 5. It isn’t clear if India would want to play the seventh batsman. If they indeed play Ravindra Jadeja as the all-rounder then skipper Dhoni would come in at No 6 and the former would be next.
Ravichandran Ashwin would be the leading spinner and should beat Pragyan Ojha in the race. Zaheer Khan would lead the pace attack with Mohammed Shami being the trump card. There may be a toss-up for the third seamer’s spot with Umesh Yadav and Bhuvneshwar Kumar being the contenders.
South Africa have a settled unit with Graeme Smith and Alviro Peterson opening the batting. Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy and Faf du Plessis will follow. There is a lot of strength and depth in the batting line-up at the top of the order, while Duminy and du Plessis are still consolidating their spots in the line-up.
Having said that, a lot of focus would be on the bowling. Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander would be the main fast bowlers and would be itching to trouble the Indians. But, would South Africa play a fourth seamer instead of Imran Tahir as the spinner? It can happen as they would want to test the Indians with pace and in that case Rory Kleinveldt would come in.
So, there is a huge mountain to climb for India and this truly marks the beginning of a new phase for them. Their practice game was also washed out and that means they are certainly short of some good match practice even though they have played the ODIs. However, they return to Johannesburg, the arena where they won their first Test in the country back in 2006 and also the ICC World T20 2007. Will India rekindle those happy memories again?
South Africa (probable): Graeme Smith (c), Alviro Peterson, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers (wk), JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander, Rory Kleinveldt.
India (probable): Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, MS Dhoni (c & wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Zaheer Khan, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav.
Time: 14:00 IST | 08:30 GMT
South Africa vs India — Live on Ten Cricket
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