India look for redemption in Tests under Kohli

South Africa are the team to beat in world cricket. India aim to do precisely that. So what if the conditions are contrived to assist the home team? The pitch, dressed up flatteringly with a sprinkling of grass, should bolster the hopes of India’s slow bowlers.

India will be relying heavily on their spin brigade to out-manoeuvre the potent opposition batting, which has been sublime to say the least.   -  PTI

This Indian team want to win. Not that the previous teams thought any differently. But the mindset has undergone a huge transformation in Virat Kohli’s short regime. He exudes the confidence of a captain firmly in control of his thoughts and action, willing to take risks and the flak too if things go wrong.

Aggression is the key

Kohli will take adversity on the chin. And so would his young bunch. It is this characteristic of Indian cricket that is going to dictate the course of the series against South Africa. Kohli, with the backing of team director Ravi Shastri, is convinced that one has to make winning a habit. In the process if you lose, you seek redemption at the next stop. Fear of failure is history.

On the eve of the first Test here, the first home Test since Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement, the busy Kohli went about his job meticulously. It is a big series and both the camps acknowledged this fact. Sparks are likely to fly as aggression forms the nucleus of the two teams. It, however, promises a quality contest where neither team shall concede an inch.

Helpful track

South Africa are the team to beat in world cricket. India aim to do precisely that. So what if the conditions are contrived to assist the home team? The pitch, dressed up flatteringly with a sprinkling of grass, should bolster the hopes of India’s slow bowlers.

South Africa, psychologically prepared to deal with the menace of Indian spinners, are likely to counter an unfriendly pitch where the variable bounce could surprise the best of pre-match analysts.

The teams, however, are not going to lose sleep over the nature of the pitch. Dale Steyn talks of air speed. He does not need any help. The 20-year-old Kagiso Rabada is quick in the air too.

India bank on the skills of off-spinner R. Ashwin, who is not averse to even open the attack. There is hope and conviction when this Chennai all-rounder assumes the role of a trusted match-winner. He has stepped into that mould and Kohli has begun to accept that Ashwin -- who has learnt to handle pressure -- is the key.

What is the ideal combination?

The composition of India’s playing XI may cause some headache to the observers of the game, but the discerning know the way forward lies in Kohli’s vision of a five-batsmen-five bowler theory.

The argument behind this is to make the best use of the player. Kohli knows well that batsmen make runs, but bowlers win matches. It is ironic that Cheteshwar Pujara, groomed for the longer format, ends up sacrificing his slot to Rohit Sharma. Kohli may have to rethink his policy in Pujara’s case.

South Africa, realistic to the core, draw inspiration from a collective strength that begins with the calm and composed Hashim Amla and gains momentum from the imperious presence of AB de Villiers.

There is a method to the South African way of approaching the task. Precision in identifying the strong areas has allowed the team to grow and South Africa bring an awesome reputation to the crease — they will not compromise on their desire to win. That makes it two teams with a common goal.



The teams (from): India: Shikhar Dhawan, M. Vijay, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli (capt.), Rohit Sharma, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), R. Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Amit Mishra, Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron, Stuart Binny, Cheteshwar Pujara, K.L. Rahul and Bhuvneshwar Kumar.

South Africa: Dean Elgar, Stiaan van Zyl, Faf du Plessis, Hashim Amla (capt.), AB de Villiers, Temba Bavuma, Dane Vilas (wk), Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Simon Harmer, Imran Tahir, Morne Morkel, Kagiso Rabada and Dane Piedt.

Umpires: Richard Kettleborough and Kumar Dharmasena; Third umpire: Vineet Kularni; Fourth umpire: Anil Chaudhary; Match Referee: Jeff Crowe.



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