SA vs IND: A perfect start but India needs to tie up loose ends

Despite a winning start, India will be hoping that Cheteshwar Pujara and captain Virat Kohli can strike form in the second Test at the Wanderers.

KL Rahul during the first Test against South Africa at Centurion.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Rahul Dravid has made a winning start in his job as India coach on foreign soil.

And the victory comes in no less a country than South Africa where India registered its first Test win under Dravid’s captaincy way back in 2006 at the Wanderers. Talking to the media, K.L. Rahul dwelt on the value of having a legend such as Dravid as coach, where you can learn about the art of cricket, drawing from his experiences.

Rahul also revealed Dravid brought calmness and focus to the dressing room and made the cricketers work hard at the nets. Dravid’s cutting-edge professionalism - there is a quiet ruthlessness about his methods - and skipper Virat Kohli’s passion for overseas victories in Test, blend well. There is desire, there is hunger.

The erudite Dravid, ever the perfectionist, would not have been completely happy though with the victory in the first Freedom Test. Take away Rahul’s exceptional first innings 123 and there was hardly anything to choose between the two sides. And we are talking about a transitional South African side with a porous batting line-up.

READ: Bowlers down South Africa as India enjoys maiden win in Centurion

The batting collapse on the day three - India slumped from 272 for three to 327 all out -  and the second innings capitulation [India was dismissed for 174] would have worried Dravid.

The Wanderers can be extremely seamer friendly and the host could play four specialist pacemen with Duanne Olivier coming in for Keshav Maharaj. The Indian batting, with problem areas, is bound to be severely tested. 

Cheteshwar Pujara is struggling at No. 3. He has been a courageous campaigner for India in the past, but runs have been eluding him. He has to look again at his forward press, which has landed him trouble recently. Pujara would be well advised to hang back unless the length demands otherwise. Indeed, the length should dictate the footwork from the Indians which was not always the case in the first Test.

Another senior batter under scrutiny, Ajinkya Rahane, timed the ball sweetly during his first innings 48 but, given that capable young batters Hanuma Vihari and Shreyas Iyer are sitting out, he needs to convert his starts.

His second innings dismissal where, despite the presence of fine-leg and a deep square-leg, he ventured into a fatal hook was not what you would expect from a seasoned batter.

Vihari had an outstanding tour of South Africa with India ‘A’ and Shreyas made Test runs against New Zealand at home. Skipper Kohli needs a big score too. His airy cover-drive at a wide one from the impressive debutant Marco Jansen soon after lunch on day four was disappointing.

The ill-advised stroke led to his downfall. It was a case of poor batting.

Kohli has to re-look at his footwork and balance. He needs to dig in, 'leave' deliveries, be circumspect around off-stump. The Indian captain led capably but his team needs runs from him. The vibrant Indian pace bowling would have, however, pleased Dravid. None more than Mohammed Shami, at the peak of his powers.

Shami has among the best seam positions in world cricket. The seam stays upright and the batters don't always know which way the ball would deviate. Even as they are in two minds, Shami strikes. What a champion!

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