Ind vs SA: India opts for five-pronged pace attack

It was only the second occasion – the other being against Australia in Perth, 2012 - that India entered a Test without a spinner.

India has gone into the JohannesburgTest with an unprecedented – in its history – five pacemen including seam bowling all-rounder Hardik Pandya.   -  AFP

There was a time when the Indian fielders used to raze the ball into the ground so that the sphere lost its shine quickly and the spinners could be hastened into the attack.

There have been occasions when batting maestro Sunil Gavaskar has opened the bowling with Eknath Solkar, who, perhaps, was picked more for his sensational close-in catching and determined batting than his left-arm seamers.

Those days in the early 70s seemed a long time ago when India went into the third Test at the Wanderers here with an all-seam attack.

It was only the second occasion – the other being against Australia in Perth, 2012 - that India entered a Test without a spinner.

In Perth, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav and Vinay Kumar formed the pace pack for India at the famous WACA ground.

India coach Ravi Shastri had earlier said that conditions would determine the selection of the eleven. And India has gone into the Test here with an unprecedented – in its history – five pacemen--Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah. The list also included seam bowling all-rounder Hardik Pandya.

This marks a complete shift from the days of the legendary spin quartet. In R. Ashwin, India has one of the finest spinners in contemporary cricket and he did bowl admirably in the second Test at Centurion.

But then, the brown, dry pitch for the second Test was very different from the grassy, lively surface here.

Ashwin was a part of the 13 picked by the team-management on Tuesday evening but eventually did not make the cut given the nature of the wicket, the cloud cover and the forecast for rain which meant the pitch would never really dry out for a spinner to exploit.