2nd Test: Rampaging India target series against South Africa
Virat Kohli's India will be eyeing to seal to the series in Pune. (AFP Image)

Improving on near perfection would be India‘s aim while building on the small positives from a huge loss will be South Africa‘s focus when the two sides clash in the second Test starting Thursday. Virat Kohli‘s men ticked almost all the boxes during their 203-run win in the opening Test in Visakhapatnam and would like to maintain the same intensity in their bid to seal the series in Pune.

It is difficult to improve upon a perfect show but trust Kohli to find a new challenge for his team in his pursuit of excellence. It certainly won’t be a bad idea against an opposition which doesn’t have the wherewithal to pose consistent challenge across five days of Test cricket.

Rohit Sharma 2.0’s blockbuster re-entry into Test arena as an opener with twin hundreds was a calculated punt that worked wonderfully well first up for Kohli and head coach Ravi Shastri. With Mayank Agarwal also showing signs of making every chance count – as he did with his maiden double hundred – India’s opening woes for the next four Tests at home could be history for the time being.

The heavy duty batting line-up that also includes Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane and Hanuma Vihari would look to make a heftier contribution if the pitch at the Gahunje Stadium aids batsmen. It was at this very ground that the Indian Test team endured its last batting collapse at home, against Australia in 2017 on a rank turner where offspinner Nathan Lyon made lives miserable.

Chances are slim that a pitch of that nature will be on offer for the 2nd Test and even if curator Pandurang Salgaokar offers anything remotely close, chances of India, armed with two seasoned spinners in Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, might finish it off in less than four days.

The dogged Dean Elgar and the elegant Quinton de Kock showed a lot of character with their hundreds in the first Test but chances of a Steve Smith-like 2017 batting masterclass on a dodgy track remains a far-fetched possibility.

Ashwin, with a match haul of eight wickets, and Jadeja, with his all-round solidity, give this team a menacing look in home conditions. Also, Mohammed Shami’s mastery with the semi new and old ball on dry tracks is gradually attaining legendary status. One can only hope that Shami remains niggle-free as he was seen hobbling on his run-up in the first innings in Visakhapatnam.

Ishant Sharma was also steady during both the innings without being spectacular. Such was their impact that Jasprit Bumrah was hardly missed despite his phenomenal presence in red ball cricket over the last 18 months.

While India, unless forced by any unforeseen injury, are unlikely to change their playing XI, South African might be tempted to drop one among Senuran Muthusamy and Dane Piedt, who were taken for plenty by the Indian batsmen.

Rohit was especially hard on them and hit a world record 13 sixes in the game. It could well be Muthusamy and in that case batsman Zubayr Hamza may get a look in. If Piedt is dropped, South Africa could be tempted to try Lungi Ngidi, who could make a difference with his pace and movement.