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By Abhijit Banare
Dec 7, 2013
Touring to South Africa on the back of six series wins and some breathtaking displays of batsmanship, India were expected to dominate the home team. However, just one game into the One-Day International (ODI) series against South Africa, the concern that many cricket pundits expressed before the series commenced seems to have come true — facing quality fast bowlers on bouncy wickets. Considering India’s long-known dependency on batting, they have come under scrutiny, despite the fact that bowlers have been equally responsible for not making favourable conditions count. The second ODI at Durban will be a test of character for the current ODI champions — India to show their mettle in a must-win encounter.
There’s no doubt that onus of taking the team past the finishing line lies beyond the in-form openers and the ever-reliant — MS Dhoni. With both Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina respectively struggling to come to the party, the vacuum was going to be exposed at some-time or the other. And it became clearly evident against a strong pace attack. The fact that both these batsmen have been found to be uncomfortable against short-pitched deliveries has raised more question marks. The batsmen will have to rise to the challenge, if they have to not only make a comeback in the ODI series, but the Tests that follow at the same venues (Johannesburg and Durban).
Meanwhile, the death overs bowling has continued to let down India’s captain — Dhoni. In all likelihood, Mohit Sharma might have to make way for Umesh Yadav on the basis of extra pace. Bhuvneshwar Kumar too hasn’t been up to the mark, while bowling in the death overs. But the value he brings to the side with the new ball makes him an asset. Only Mohammed Shami looked like a bowler who was likely to succeed in the first game.
Though the pacers were under fire, one must not forget the ease with which the batsmen, Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla milked runs against Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. These two have been Dhoni’s trump cards for a while, giving him much needed control and delivering crucial breakthroughs in the middle overs. With the way the South African openers presented their delectable wrist-work, while cutting and playing inside-out shots, the bowlers surely have a task on their hands, during the remaining part of the series.
From South Africa’s perspective, this is the kind of victory that would have rejuvenated the entire side after the demoralising series loss against Pakistan. AB de Villiers’s gamble of playing six quickies was justified against a team which has had its problems against pace backed by bounce. If he is fit enough, Vernon Philander might add more venom to the already strong attack replacing either Lonwabo Tsotsobe or Wayne Parnell. Depending on the conditions, Imran Tahir will remain as an option, but the first ODI has given ample reasons for de Villiers to retain the same side.
The Proteas will be hungry to unleash their battery of pace bowlers once again on Indian batsmen and seal the ODI series with a victory at Durban. On the other end of the spectrum, the visitors have an enormous challenge on their hands to turn the tables around against a pillaging opposition. Perhaps it is time to take some inspiration from their neighbours – Pakistan, who came back from a much worse scenario and returned home with their first series win over South Africa recently. Looking at the enormous confidence and self-belief this Indian team possesses, one can just hope that the defeat in the first game will fire them up to bounce back into the series, instead of carrying a mental block.
The series will be dedicated to late Nelson Mandela who passed away at the age of 95 on Friday.
South Africa (probable): Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock (wk), Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers (c), JP Duminy, David Miller, Ryan McLaren, Wayne Parnell, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander.
India (probable): Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni (c & wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav.
Time: 8.00 GMT | 1.30 IST
South Africa vs India — Live on Ten Cricket
(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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