Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here

Home > News >

India vs South Africa 1st Test: Visitors begin post-Sachin Tendulkar era

India vs South Africa 1st Test: Visitors begin post-Sachin Tendulkar era
Sachin Tendulkar bid farewell after playing his 200th Test versus West Indies in Mumbai last month © PTI

 

By Chetan Narula

 

Johannesburg: Dec 17, 2013

 

The thrashing in One-Day Internationals (ODI) behind them, India will be aiming to start the post-Sachin Tendulkar era in Test cricket on a positive note but the task looks daunting as they would be up against the world’s number one side South Africa in the two-match series starting on Wednesday at Johannesburg.

 

At the Wanderers stadium, after losing the three-ODI series 2-0, the visitors will be looking to make their first mark on the tour, in what will be a new era in the annals of Indian cricket.

 

For this is the first Test match for Team India following the retirement of Sachin Tendulkar. The Master Blaster bid farewell after playing his 200th Test versus West Indies in Mumbai, in what was an emotional roller-coaster for the entire nation’s cricket fans.

 

Since then, six ODIs have been played against the West Indies and in South Africa. The contrasting results in these two series had taken some focus off the issues emanating from Tendulkar’s retirement. Now, they need to be addressed.

 

The first question to be asked is who will bat at number four? The true realisation of Tendulkar’s departure will dawn when a new face comes in to bat at the fall of the second wicket during India’s first innings in this Test.

 

It probably will be Virat Kohli, attempting to fill in the big boots, an unenviable task surely.

 

It fits the context of this Test series. This is India’s first overseas Test in nearly two years, since their tour to Australia in 2011-12.

 

In 12 Tests at home thereafter, India won nine, lost two and drew one, winning series against New Zealand, Australia and West Indies.

 

They lost a series to England in between. Most importantly, this long home season ensured the transition with Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman departing the scene.

 

Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Harbhajan Singh were side-lined owing to poor performances, giving a completely new look to the Indian team.

 

In this interim, Kohli has been the premier batsman for this young side for almost two seasons now. And ever since he has landed here, the Proteas have given him their undivided attention.

 

Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel peppered him with pace and bounce in the ODI series, wherein he scored 31 runs and a duck in the first two ODIs.

 

That India lost when he failed is, perhaps, a significant reminder of their reliance on Kohli, who has 11 hundreds in successful ODI run-chases.

 

It isn’t his success rate in limited-overs cricket that makes him a first-choice pick for number four in Tests.

 

Instead, it is his aggressive mentality and gusty demeanour that was amply displayed when faced with blinding pace and fearsome bounce in the first ODI at the Wanderers.

 

Riled by a Morkel delivery that hit him in the ribs, Kohli didn’t back away, and took on Steyn and company, or at least he tried to.

 

In the two Tests though, he will need to mix this belligerent intent with caution. It is true for all other batsmen as well.

 

It was their propensity to look for shots at the very beginning of their innings that led to their downfall in the ODIs.

 

And South Africa’s pace attack will once again look to exploit this bit with the red Kookaburra ball expected to do more than the white one. Not to mention, it is the same Wanderers’ deck that caused much pain to this young Indian batting line-up in their opening match on tour.

 

“There is pace and bounce in this wicket, as is the case at this ground always,” said Pethuel Buthelezi, a groundsman at Johannesburg, who has worked on the Wanderers’ pitch for a long time.

 

“But this is also a win-toss-bat-first wicket. If the batsmen get set they will like the bounce and 400 runs should be a good first innings’ score,” he said.

 

It should be music to the Indian batsmen who are looking for that one innings to restore lost confidence. They have been denied competitive cricket since the Centurion ODI, with the two-day practice game at Benoni also abandoned due to a wet outfield.

 

This only adds to their challenge, and the intrigue surrounding the Indian team selection. With such half-baked form of his batsmen, and in light of Tendulkar’s exit, will skipper MS Dhoni pick seven batsmen or take a risk with five bowlers?

 

Seven batsmen ought to be the safe bet. In either case, three pacers should be the norm, as is in South African conditions.

 

But a five-bowler attack will put focus on Ravichandran Ashwin. The off-spinner is now the leading all-rounder in Test cricket (as per ICC Test rankings) and his record doesn’t disprove it.

 

He has two Test hundreds, albeit both at home against West Indies, yet he bats with undeniable assurance in the tail-end of the batting order. It is highlighted further when the opposition too makes a mental note of such players.

 

“Ashwin bats well in the tail-end of their young batting line-up and it is important for us to use the new ball well, get the top-order and retain our hunger getting into their tail,” said Morne Morkel, ahead of the first Test.

 

With 104 wickets in 18 Tests, he could have been the attack leader as well, if not for the presence of Zaheer Khan.

 

The return of the 88-Test pace-veteran adds much bite to the Indian attack.

 

Not to mention, he has Proteas’ skipper Graeme Smith‘s number (with six dismissals in nine matches), maybe a plus point for the Indian team first up.

 

On the other hand, the big problem for the world’s number one ranked Test side, though, will be getting off to a quick start from the perspective of the series and not just an innings.

 

In their last Test series versus Pakistan, played in the UAE, they gave away an advantage losing the first Test and leaving a lot to be done in the second, which they duly won.

 

Even so, any slip-ups here will bring alive an old memory, from 2006, when India under Rahul Dravid did manage to beat South Africa at the Wanderers, thanks to a handy eight-wicket haul from S Sreesanth, and half-centuries from Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman.

 

A lot has changed since then for India but lightning does strike twice at the same place, sometimes.

Indian T20 League 2014

Apr 17, 2014 (20:00 IST)   at Sharjah

Indian T20 League 2014

Apr 18, 2014 (16:00 IST)   at Abu Dhabi

Indian T20 League 2014

Apr 18, 2014 (20:00 IST)   at Abu Dhabi

Indian T20 League 2014

Apr 19, 2014 (16:00 IST)   at Dubai

Indian T20 League 2014

Apr 19, 2014 (20:00 IST)   at Dubai

More

Indian T20 League 2014

Apr 16, 2014  at Abu Dhabi

Scores delayed by 15 mins Kolkata Knight Riders won by 41 runs

Womens World T20, 2014

Apr 6, 2014  at Dhaka

Australia Women won by 6 wkts

T20 WC 2014

Apr 6, 2014  at Dhaka

Sri Lanka won by 6 wkts

Womens World T20, 2014

Apr 4, 2014  at Dhaka

England Women won by 9 wkts

T20 WC 2014

Apr 4, 2014  at Dhaka

India won by 6 wkts

Photos

Duke and Duchess of Cambridge play cricket

Videos

Video Highlights: Mumbai Indians vs Kolkata Knight Riders wickets

IPL 7: Vintage Jacques Kallis showed his class for Kolkata Knight Riders against Mumbai Indians

IPL 2014: Onus on Chris Gayle to take Royal Challengers Bangalore all the way

IPL 2014: Capacity crowd at UAE provides glimpse of the T20 league’s huge following

Narendra Modi’s tea-vendor origin influences MS Dhoni in calling laundrymen to clean up BCCI mess

Delhi Daredevils vs Royal Challengers Bangalore IPL 2014 Preview: RCB have advantage over DD sans Kevin Pietersen

Australia BCCI England India IPL IPL 7 IPL 2014 Kolkata Knight Riders Lasith Malinga Moments in history Mumbai Indians Mumbai Indians vs Kolkata Knight Riders Royal Challengers Bangalore Sachin Tendulkar

IPL 2014: High Court stays Delhi government tax demand from Delhi Daredevils

Kumar Sangakkara on Durham’s radar for County Championship

IPL 2014: Delhi Daredevils ropes in RBL Bank as new partner

Rajasthan Royals aim to put spot-fixing controversies behind in IPL 2014 clash against Sunrisers Hyderabad

Sunrisers Hyderabad vs Rajasthan Royals IPL 2014 Preview: Familiar but tweaked line-ups looking for early momentum

Delhi Daredevils’ strong bench filled with talented Indian players could be key to success in IPL 7

IPL 7: Vintage Jacques Kallis showed his class for Kolkata Knight Riders against Mumbai Indians

IPL 2014: Onus on Chris Gayle to take Royal Challengers Bangalore all the way

IPL 2014: Royal Challengers Bangalore’s bowlers have their work cut out against Delhi Daredevils

IPL 2014: Capacity crowd at UAE provides glimpse of the T20 league’s huge following

Fan of the Day

Sudatta Mukherjee

Sudatta Mukherjee

1 Posts | 0 Fans

Mumbai Indians vs Kolkata Knight Riders IPL 2014 Video Highlights

Former Apple CEO John Sculley launches Obi Mobiles smartphone brand in India

Karnataka polls: 26 percent polling till noon

Narendra Modi an `encounter Chief Minister`: Chidambaram

BJP fields highest number of criminals in today’s poll

Alia Bhatt: If Shahrukh Khan and Salman Khan give a bad film, it will still make Rs 150 crore!

Telugu superstar Mahesh Babu supports TDP`s Jayadev

Online medical information – bane or boon for the healthcare system?

Sunrisers Hyderabad vs Rajasthan Royals IPL 2014 Preview: Familiar but tweaked line-ups looking for early momentum

Also on cricketcountry.com