South Africa's redemption Vs India’s tryst with greatness!
In an attempt to make test cricket relevant, one word that is often used more than any other these days is context. It is a factor that attaches meaning to the contest beyond the usual definition of playing for the heck of it. Undeniably, the context of a contest is what makes test cricket beautiful, and so it is refreshing to go into a contest that is as context-rich as current South Africa vs India series.
It is the beginning of a 3 match test series between ICC’S ranked No. 1 and No. 2 sides in the world, but there is a broader context to it than just the rankings. Flashback 2015 and South Africa will be looking for redemption after they have been humiliated in what Faf du Plessis described as 'extreme conditions'. South Africa was thumped 0-3, which subsequently relieved them of the No. 1 ranking and with their most prudent batsman taking a sabbatical for a year and losing few of their players opting for ‘Kolpak contracts’ over national duty and some to injury, they have not been able to field their best 11 for some time now.
We were disappointed the last time we went there and we have got a score to settle.
– Faf du Plessis
With de Villiers back after a year-long sabbatical and Steyn following an injury layoff, South Africa will have a chance to field their best 11, something they have been unable to do since that dreaded Indian tour of 2015. Should South Africa opt for “designer tracks”, Vernon Philander who is one short of 100 wickets at home at a barely believable average of below 19 will be their go-to man, along with the young Kagiso Rabada.
While South Africa look for redemption, their opponents whose every stellar performance (nine series triumphs in a row) has been met with constant reminders about their overseas failures of the past by cynics and fans alike would want to niche a legacy for themselves by accomplishing something no other Indian team has been able to do, to win a test series in the rainbow nation and to step out from the conventional tale that they can’t succeed outside the subcontinent.
India’s record in South Africa:
While India’s batting will be the main focus against South Africa's pace battery, it’s how their fast bowlers react and adjust to the conditions that will decide their fate in the series. Inability to take 20 wickets and close out games has often been India’s nemesis on overseas trips in the past, particularly evident from the Wanderer’s test of 2013. But never have the bowling stocks exuded so much hope from pundits and fans alike. It will also be interesting to see how Kohli uses R. Ashwin in the series who will more be a support bowler for the first three days while playing a major role when the pitch dries out considerably.
The first Test of the series will be played at the picturesque 'Newlands' ground in Cape Town, a ground wherein the 11 tests that the Asian teams have played, they have a 0-9 win-loss record with India losing one (2007) and drawing on the other two occasions (1997 & 2011), both sparkled by Tendulkar’s hundreds (169 in 1997 and an unbeaten 154 in 2011).Given the drought conditions in Cape Town, South Africa, may not get a green seamer right away, giving Indian batsmen time to adjust to the wickets before stern test await them at the Highveld, the success in which will define India’s path towards greatness.