As India and South Africa lock horns in the most awaited series of recent times, the big question is who will survive this battle of aces, the Indian team led by an aggressive Virat Kohli or a South African team led by Faf Du Plessis keen to take revenge for their previous loss in India in 2015?
As Test Cricket fights for its survival and various suggestion are pouring from different directions, the last days of 2017 and the starting of 2018 will be mixed one for test cricket. While South Africa and Zimbabwe have become first sides to participate in a four-day test (leading to anticipation about future of test cricket), the two top-ranked sides in International Cricket, South Africa and India will be engrossed in the battle of supremacy.
India, the no.1 ranked side in the world have been in fantastic form in last two and half years winning series after series, but it’s also true that they haven’t been tested outside the subcontinent.
In the next 15 months, they will be on some of the most challenging tours starting from the 3 Test series against South Africa. This will be an uphill task against a side whom they have dethroned from no.1 ranking but make no mistake there is not much to differentiate between two sides. However, one can easily assume that South Africa have the upper hand in the home series especially after the return of Dale Steyn and AB Devilliers.
On the other hand, India is confident this time because of the pace attack they possess. While there are no different arguments that conditions will not favour India’s main weapon spin, but in Mohammad Shami, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav India have a potent bowling attack which can create a lot of problems for South African batting line-up.
The recent form of these pacemen along with a strong batting line up that includes Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and a lower order which has been making vital contributions in the form of Wridhimaan Saha, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, it will be interesting to see how the things pan out in South African conditions.
S.Africa know that the series will not only bring profit to their board’s coffers but will also give them a chance to take revenge of their series loss in India in 2015. A Series where they not only lost the pride by losing 0-3 in 4 test series but also got their 9-year-old record of being unbeaten in overseas test series broken.
Earlier the series was scheduled to be a 4 test one, but the inability of Indian Board to play Boxing day test starting on 26th December 2017 reduced it down to 3. Teams like Bangladesh and Zimbabwe didn’t really test the proteas and lost heavily, but Faf Du Plessis’ men have clearly shown they are not willing to show any sympathy to their opponents.
Aiden Markram, Dean Elgar and Hashim Amla have given strong starts to their while Faf Du Plessis and Ab Devilliers will be forming the core of middle order. Vernon Philander, Morne Morkel and Kagiso Rabada are certain starters, but there is still doubt about Dale Steyn and Quinton De Cock both of whom are fighting to be fit for the test. If both of them get selected, it will be one of the best team that S.Africa have been able to put up in past 2-3 years after fighting with injuries to their star players.
Capetown is probably the best venue for India to start with on a batting friendly pitch. Though India is yet to win a test at Newlands but considering the strip this time, they couldn’t have asked for a better pitch for the opening encounter.
South Africa: Aiden Markram, Dean Elgar, Hashim Amla, A.B Devilliars, Faf Duplessis, Temba Bavuma,/Morne Morkel, Quinton De Cock (wk) Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada
India: Shikhar Dhawan, Murli Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Wridhiman Saha, Ravindra Jadeja/ Ravi Ashwin, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Mohammad Shami, Umesh Yadav