So it begins.
The first Test match of the post Tendulkar era for India will begin tomorrow at the Wanderers in Johannesburg. This series versus the South African side will mark the first time in last 20 years, that Sachin Tendulkar won’t be a part of a Test series against South Africa. Also the sheen of the series was lost, when it was curtailed to a 2 test series instead of the proposed 3 Test one.
This series is going to be about the new look Indian batting lineup against the fierce South African pace attack lead by the best fast bowler in modern era, Dale Steyn. India will also have to deal with the pace and bounce that the Wanderers pitch would offer to the South African quick bowlers. Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn even Jacques Kallis would all be itching to have a go at the frail Indian batting lineup.
South Africa are the no.1 ranked Test side and would like to consolidate that fact further by beating the Indian team, which offered no resistance in the one day series that preceded the Test matches. South Africa with their batting lineup which consists of Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla, A.B.DeVilliers, Jacques Kallis and J.P.Duminy is in top form and their bowling is already world class with pace, bounce and swing.
India, on other hand, would be very happy to have Zaheer Khan back in the Test fold, his experience in such conditions and his mastery over the swing especially against the top order of South Africa, will benefit the Indian team. Even the younger fast bowlers of India like Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav and Md.Shami will be extremely benefited to have the experience of Zaheer backing them.
Now the major factor that will play a role in this series would be how well the Indian batting copes with the pace and bounce of South African wickets. The one day series proved to be a failure for the Indian batting with none of the stars contributing. The lack of techniques and temperament was visible with Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli perishing, trying to play shots without settling in on tougher tracks. The influence of Cheteshwar Pujara should be helpful in calming the stroke-playing nature of other batters in the team.
India’s hopes of a win in this series would also depend on how their fast bowlers perform in the bowler friendly conditions. If they can bowl according to a plan and don’t ape the South African bowlers, India should be able to stand a fighting chance of winning the series.
It would be very interesting to see how both sides put their spinners in Imran Tahir and R. Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja to good effect on the faster wickets of South Africa. The spinners will have a say in the series to some effect because of their ability to slow down the game considerably, considering the pace bowling that will be on display in this series.
In the end, the result depends on how Indian batsmen handle themselves against the pace storm of South Africa.