India's three pronged strategy against South Africa
When Team India take on South Africa in their second encounter at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) on the 22nd of February, they will have to summon something very special and out of the box to give themselves even a glimmer of hope against the mighty South Africans. The Indian team, which seemed depleted after the disastrous Tri-series seems to have sprung back to life after their resounding win over arch-rivals Pakistan.
But the real litmus test will be their ability to handle the South African test. The Indian team should greet South Africa with a completely different strategy that takes them by surprise.
A rethink on short ball strategy:
The ploy of bowling short which the Indian bowlers adopted for their arch rivals, will certainly not hold good against the Proteas, who have been brought up playing in conditions that offer plenty of bounces. So, the pace bowlers will be playing into the hands of the South Africans if they come out with the same plan of bowling short-pitched stuff.
They must pick and choose when to go for the bouncer and do it with extra effort to get the ball neck high if they are going to trouble the Africans. The likes of AB De Villiers, Hashim Amla will pounce on anything short and pull them to the fence with absolute ease.
Mohammad Shami, who bowled outstandingly well against Pakistan, must forget his one bouncer per over theory that has proved costly and must just concentrate on bowling in the corridor of uncertainty.
A serious thought should be given by the Indians to play three spinners. South Africans, who are very comfortable against fast bowlers, should be provided with something different. Though the conditions at the MCG do not favour spinners, the Indian team should take a brave call and include Axar Patel at the expense of one of the seamers.
The South Africans are not very adept at tackling spin and not as nimble-footed as some Asian teams. They have a history of tying themselves in knots against the spinners and end up losing a heap of wickets to them. The Indian spinners have a better chance to strangle them and stem the run flow compared to their fast bowling mates.
The Steyn Factor:
If Dale Steyn is fit in time for this big clash, Indian batsmen will have plenty to ponder on how to go about scoring against the world’s best speedster, who can make life difficult when he gets his radar right. Yes, Dale Steyn should be treated with respect, but at the same time when there is a loose ball on offer, it has to go.
What is so important with great bowlers like Dale Steyn is to put them away when the opportunity presents because you never know when the next chance will present itself. So, the Indian top order will have to play him watchfully but at the same time show enough positive intent to keep the pressure on the ace bowler.