If form is anything to go by, there hardly seems to be a chance that Indians will be able to compete against South Africa in a format where they have been the world’s number one team for a considerable period of time. However, as former Indian great Sourav Ganguly says, form is temporary, class is permanent. The Indian team has often made stirring comebacks in the past when they have been perceived as down and out. It is yet to be seen as to how the team shall perform in the games but an attempt can be made to analyze what sort of contribution is being expected from each member of the test team:
MS Dhoni: He will be expected to provide calm leadership and, in all probability, will be the major contributor with the bat as well.
Ravichandran Ashwin: He will most likely play as the only spinner and will also play a crucial role in the lower middle order with his steady batting, which is one of the several reasons he is preferred in overseas assignments.
Shikhar Dhawan: Given his natural propensity to play strokes from the go it is unlikely to expect him to be too successful in the tests. However, if he can temper his exuberance he does have the capability to score big runs against Steyn & Co.
Ravindra Jadeja: His selection in a 2 test series in South African conditions may appear to be baffling at the start but it is likely that he has been chosen to cover for Ashwin as a spin bowling allrounder at no. 8.
Zaheer Khan: He is the premier seam bowler in the team and much will depend on how well he performs against the South African top order, especially Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis.
Virat Kohli: He has the capability but the situation is that the blows to his body may have dented his confidence to some extent. It will be interesting to see how well he performs in the test series as a lot will depend on him.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar: It is highly unlikely that he will play in the tests after he was benched during the one day games. In South African conditions his loopy swing bowling may not be preferred hit the deck bowlers like Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma.
Mohammed Shami: He has been the best quick bowler on display for India in the one day series and is likely to be a starter in the tests as well. He will form a formidable pair with Zaheer in the tests.
Pragyan Ojha: In spite of his exploits against the Windies at home it is unlikely that he will play a role in the tests in South Africa.
Cheteshwar Pujara: This series can be called a baptism by fire for the young Pujara, who has scored heaps of runs at home and shown the game and temperament to pull the team out of tight spots.
Ajinkya Rahane: In all probability he shall bat at no.6 and will be expected to play a role similar to VVS Laxman. He has the technique and statistics, albeit at Ranji level, to back him up but this series will test those faculties to the extreme and will provide him some invaluable lessons.
Ambati Rayudu: He will probably not get a game if all the frontline batsmen are available. Still, this will be a major learning experience for him as well.
Wriddhiman Saha: He has been chosen as a cover for MS Dhoni and will once again use this series to highlight his tremendous work ethic and project himself as a viable replacement for MS Dhoni if and when the need arises.
Ishant Sharma: He will probably play as the third seamer after Shami and Zaheer and in that sense play a crucial role with his control and bounce.
Rohit Sharma: After just 2 tests he has been thrust into the role of a major middle order batsman. Along with Kohli, he will be one of the lynchpins of the batting line up.
Murali Vijay: He will obviously play the 2 tests but there are some doubts as to whether he will be able to cope with the barrage from Steyn and Morkel. He will most probably play a sedate role alongside the swashbuckling Dhawan.
Umesh Yadav: He has the pace to succeed on South African pitches but does not have the control. This is why he has gone for plenty in the one day matches and this could also be the reason that he may not get a look in during the test series.