The start of the India South Africa test series with the Boxing day test at the Centurion Park, Gauteng, South Africa, has a lot to offer to an avid cricket fan. Even though it is only a shortened tour (three tests and three ODIs) the fate of a lot of Indian cricketers could be decided on this tour.
For the record, India has never won a test series in South Africa. So if Kohli's boys could do it, then they will certainly create history. With the South African test team itself being bogged down by some degree of confusion, transition and controversy, one can say that this is one of the weakest sides India is going to face. But much of this South African weakness is on the batting side. As far as their bowling attack is concerned, led very ably by the 'come of age' Kagiso Rabada, it is still a very potent one and is definitely going to test the Indian batting line-up. And herein lies the interesting bit about this tour.
The Indian batting line up definitely did not cover itself in glory in the recently ended India-England tour which was interrupted mid way due to the COVID scare. The tour ended inconclusively with the balance clearly tilting in India's favour. Kohli, Rahane, Pujara, and Pant, the stalwarts of the Indian batting line up all under performed, some more than the others. Case of Ajinkya Rahane is the most difficult. A seasoned pro, he is clearly not confident about his battling. With Shreyas Iyer raring to take his place, Rahane has to perform this time. One failure from him and one good innings by Iyer would make things difficult for Rahane. Pujara and Kholi have themselves been underperforming though in contrasting styles. Pujara has been spending ample time on the crease but is struggling to score big runs. Kohli on the other hand looks good till he is on the crease, but has not been able to play a long innings. He is averaging below 30 for the year 2021 and has not scored a ton in a long time. We all know Rishab Pant's ability to perform on the big occasions, but playing at test level is not about one or two great performances. Once has to be consistent over a long period of time to prove his mettle on the test level. This is where Pant would be tested.
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India's bowling department is the one which stood out in England and is likely to do it in South Africa too. Fresh from a well-deserved break, Bumbra would be raring to go. Only thing to see here is if Ishant can still continue to deliver at this level. He has proved himself beyond doubt as a fast bowler but he is clearly over the hill now and needs to use more guile than speed to remain effective. Ravichandran Ashiwin is a proven spinner but he was sidelined on the England tour. This is what makes things interesting for the fan. If he gets a chance, he would love to prove his worth to the side and prove a point or two to his doubters.
Another interesting aspect about the tour is the coming in of Rahul Dravid as the head coach. A man of impeccable reputation and a huge cricketing legend, it would be interesting to see how he works with Kohli, who is a huge star in his own right. Things could surely get a lot more interesting under the shadow of the Table Mountain.