India is going to play South Africa in a 3-match ODI series, followed by 2 Test matches. This is India’s first international tour since the Little Master’s retirement, and India will look to fill his shoes with the promising young talent that we have today. Pakistan just won a series against them at their home, and India will look to capitalise on the not-so-confident South African side in the games to be played.
But it’s not going to be easy. Team India will have to use their resources to the fullest and marshal their forces effectively in order to get back at a side that would want to set right what all went wrong for them against Pakistan. The first of the 3-match series will be played at Johannesburg on December 5, followed by one at Durban and the final at Centurion. Here are 5 things that the Men in Blue will have to focus on if they are to continue their glorious run of form.
5. Field well
India are going in with a fairly young side this time around (only like 4 names are aged over 30), and thus one would expect them to field well. But it will not come automatically, unless it’s a priority. South Africa have a pretty decent fielding side with players like De Villiers and Duminy who can really make a difference with their fielding. They will be expected to be good on the field, and the Indians can do it too- with the young legs that they have on tour it shouldn’t be a problem. An innings wherein fielding has been top notch will make a difference of 15-20 runs on the runs that the opposition is able to score.
India will look up to people like Suresh Raina and Yuvraj (and possibly Murali Vijay) to set the fielding standards, and others should look to follow their example. A good fielding display will really make a difference on the outcome of the matches (and possibly the series) and India should look to capitalise in this regard, considering they have the side for it. A good fielding effort also pumps up the morale of all the players on the field, and India should look to create as many of these moments as possible.
4. Use the experience well
India will have to rely on Yuvraj and Dhoni to get the batting act together with their experience of the game and their ability, and guide the other batters as well on their roles. Zaheer, the eldest member of the squad at 35, will be the spearhead of the bowling attack, and he along with Amit Mishra (31) would be sought for a lot of advice regarding pace and spin bowling respectively. Many of the new names playing this time who have not fully got a taste of international cricket will be looking for some serious pep-talk before and during the matches to keep them going and to prevent the pressure from getting to them.
These veterans will again be needed when captain Dhoni alone can’t make a decision as to who should be given that crucial over to bowl, or when to take the powerplays. Apart from that, they will play a crucial role in formulating the team strategy in the dressing room, taking inputs from all the new faces in the team. Even the team management will look to these players to guide the young guns. India will have to use the experience that these players have to offer to overcome South Africa playing at their home. Both Yuvraj and Zaheer have played 22 ODIs in South Africa so far. Yuvraj has played a total of 21 against South Africa, and he averages 35.88 against them, and he will look to play in a similar fashion this time too. Zaheer has 40 wickets while playing there, and an impressive economy rate of 4.57, thus his experience and foresight will be invaluable to India’s bowling attack.
3. Keep the pressure on
This will obviously one tactic that the Indians will plan on applying, knowing how South Africa can falter in crunch situations to give the game away. Even on occasions where they have had a good hold on the match, they have ended up losing it. We saw something on these lines in the last ODI against Pakistan, where they were going very well at one stage but ultimately lost by 1 run in a closely fought contest. The bowlers will have to bowl with discipline to keep the screws on. Bilawal Bhatti and Junaid Khan have effectively used their yorkers against the South Africans in the ongoing series, and Indians can do the same.
Zaheer and Ishant will have to lead by example as fast as fast bowling is concerned, and Umesh Yadav and Mohit Sharma can follow suit. Even if the South Africans are playing well, there is a good chance they might throw it all away as they have done on so many occasions before, so much so that it is part of their reputation now. Thus, the key will be to tighten the noose around them by tight bowling and some good fielding that can again help in building up the pressure. Ashwin, Jadeja, Mishra and even Yuvraj can come up with disciplined spells of spin bowling that will help in the same. Bowling with a consistent line and length according to a decided strategy always gives results, and this applies in any format anywhere in the world.
2. Use the all-rounders well
The Indian all-rounders will have to deliver if India have to stand a chance against the Proteas, who have the world’s best all-rounder (Jacques Kallis) along with players like Duminy who can both bat and bowl. Ravindra Jadeja and Yuvraj Singh, the Indian all-rounders, will have to be used properly by the team management and Dhoni. Dhoni gives the ball to Yuvraj almost every other game, and he will have to assess how to use him on the South African pitches that favour pace bowling and also with the fact that 3 specialist spinners are there in the side already. As far as the batsman Yuvraj goes, he may have to shift from his natural game a bit now that he is one of the seniors in the team, and allow people like Dhawan, Kohli and Rohit Sharma to do the attacking while he does the work of holding the innings together along with the skipper.
As for Jadeja, he is a key weapon in India’s arsenal. He will obviously bowl his quota of 10 overs, and his skill with the bat can come in handy in crunch situations when he comes in to bat at no. 7 or 8. As far as his bowling goes, Dhoni will have to use him wisely to upset the South African batting. He has the knack of taking the most crucial of wickets, and there have been many occasions he has struck gold as soon as he was introduced into the attack. He can be relied on in the death overs as well, and he will surely be saved for an over or two by his captain for those final overs of the innings.
1. Watch out for the Steyn-gun
He is in murderous form, and will be in no mood to spare the Indian batsman. He took 3 and 6 wickets in the first 2 ODIs against Pakistan. The South Africans will use him to good effect against the Indians as well, as he has a good record against them. He has a total of 17 wickets in the 10 matches that he has played against India, with best figures of 5/50 that came during the 2011 World Cup. He has an impeccable record playing at home, with a total of 62 wickets so far from 39 games.
He will definitely be a point of discussion in the team meetings of the Indians, as should be the case. They will have to figure out a way to not give him the early wickets. What is required is around 40-45 runs collected of his bowling without giving him wickets, and attacking the other bowlers who will not bowl as consistently as him. The openers will have to be circumspect when he opens the bowling attack and look to see him off before trying anything fancy. But you never know with Dhawan and Kohli, who have the potential to attack any bowler. They might go all guns blazing against Steyn to try and upset his rhythm early on. Whatever be the strategy, the Indians will have to make sure it is a good one and is implemented properly.Published 30 Nov 2013, 16:04 IST