Faf du Plessis returns as South Africa take on a very difficult assignment against a team who are chasing 11 consecutive home series win. South Africa’s last visit to India did not go well and their 3-0 loss was one of their worst performances in subcontinent conditions and possibly left many of their young players pretty scarred. The chief destroyers from the series Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja will be back in action for the Indian team and the pitches this time as well will be aiding spinners.
The South African team though will rely a lot on the batting of captain Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock. The rest of the batting though except for Aiden Markham are inexperienced in these conditions and will be hoping for lots of help from the experienced heads. The bowling attack will have the talented Keshav Maharaj and the fantastic Kagiso Rabada leading the attack. Vernon Philander is back to take the new ball giving South Africa a pretty well rounded bowling attack for the conditions.
For India though the opening combination is still an issue. Rohit Sharma will be taking up that mantle this time along with Mayank Agarwal. The middle order though has a settled look with Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane. Hanuma Vihari who had a great West Indian tour will take the number 6 slot in the batting order. Rishabh Pant has been dropped owing to his poor performances in Tests recently which means Wriddhiman Saha makes a comeback to the Test side. Jasprit Bumrah’s stress fracture means that Ishant Sharma and Mohammad Shami will be the two lone Pacers in the XI. Jadeja and Ashwin as the spin bowling all rounders will complete the Indian bowling attack for the first Test.
Cheteshwar Pujara (India): Pujara was instrumental in India achieving the historic series win in Australia earlier this year. Even though he had a poor series in West Indies, his credentials as a very good player of spin makes him very important in home conditions. He averages 62 at home with more than 3000 runs and he once again will be crucial for India in this series.
Ravichandran Ashwin (India): Closing in on 350 Test wickets Ashwin will be back to being the lead spinner in home conditions. His record at home is exceptional with 234 wickets at 22.68 and he will once again be key for India on pitches which will for sure be helping spin.
Faf du Plessis (South Africa): In an inexperienced batting line up Faf will hold the key for South Africa’s chances. He has been on multiple tours to India and has most experience playing in these conditions and him having a good series will be crucial for his side on this tough tour.
Keshav Maharaj (South Africa): Maharaj was brilliant in Sri Lanka and bowled his heart out on yet another subcontinent loss for his side. He would want to bring all that experience onto this series to help his side against a very strong home batting line up. It will not be easy but Maharaj is extremely talented and will be leading the South African spin attack this series.
India XI: Rohit Sharma, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (C), Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Wriddhiman Saha (WK), Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Ishant Sharma, Mohammad Shami
South Africa XI: Aiden Markram, Dean Elgar, Theunis de Bruyn, Faf du Plessis (c), Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock (wk), Vernon Philander, Keshav Maharaj, Dane Piedt, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi
What they said?
“I think the most amount of credit has to go to the team, because we, we lay down a vision in 2015, that, you know, we’re going to be flexible [with our combination]. We were going to choose sides according to the conditions that we’re playing in. Because we want results, we want to be successful as a team, and we want to be at the top of the world. So if the team hadn’t bought into it, then it becomes a little difficult for guys who started don’t start to, you know, play with the kind of intent that you played with.” Said captain Virat Kohli about the success of his team over the last few years
“If you look at our squad, there’s a hell lot of new faces from the last time. It could work in our favour in terms of the brand of cricket and positivity. Yes it may not go our way but we are here to compete. We are not going to lie down and back down with the sort of old woes from the last tour. And who knows, it could be our time, in the next three Test matches, to shock some people.” Said Keshav Maharaj ahead of the first Test
This will be South Africa’s start of the Test championship and they will be hoping to make a good start to their campaign. India who have already been to a flying start with 120 points would want to build on it and start of the home season with a bang. Even though the visitors are expected to give a better account of themselves this time around, the hosts are overwhelming favourites to win this series and it will be hard to bet against that result.