In the one day series against South Africa, the Indian team was unable to achieve any positive result as they were evidently unable to come to terms with the pace and bounce on offer in the South African pitches. On top of that, the Proteas fast bowlers were in top form as well as were the batsmen who piled on the pressure match after match. Given the nature of their defeat, one can only expect things to become tougher for the visitors in terms of the conditions on offer and the strategies employed by the home team.
To start with, the enormity of India’s task can be understood from the fact that in spite of being the highest ranked team they were unable to win a single one dayer, let alone win the series! South Africa is the numero uno test team of the world and will be looking to make its home advantage count. However, the recent series has shown that performance, and not rankings, are the main factors in sporting encounters, and India would do well to keep that factor in mind.
In the one day series South Africa went in with 4 seamers and the ploy is unlikely to change in the test series given the present Indian team’s weakness against this form of bowling. In the tests, the 4 pace bowlers will be accompanied by Jacques Kallis, who is regarded as the best allrounder in the game. The recent Ashes has shown what high quality pace bowling can do to a team that is not too comfortable to face it and since South Africa has the best bowling line up of this kind in the world it will not be willing to let up from the barrage from the one day series.
The pitches, which assisted the fast bowlers during the one day series, can be expected to be greener and harder so that Indian spinners do not get even the remotest assistance from them. However, this can prove to be a boomerang for the South Africans for several reasons. India has a better attack in tests, compared to the one-dayers, with Mohammed Shami and Zaheer Khan leading the attack and they will be backed up by either Ishant Sharma or Bhuvneshwar Kumar. One of the tests will be played at Durban where the hosts have a modest record including a loss to India itself. So, may be that factor could work in favor of India.
India may have hoped for some good practice but they will have to contend with Benoni, where the conditions are not too dissimilar to the subcontinent. The opponent team is also an invitational eleven as opposed to the A team. On top of that there are only 3 fast bowlers in the team and several spinners, which means that the much sought after practice against fast bowlers will not be available. However, Indian batsmen would benefit from being able to spend some quality time in the middle and should look forward to use that momentum in the test series.
For the Indian team it is highly unlikely, at least at this point, to think of a series victory having performed the way it did in the recently concluded one day matches. However, the younger members of the team should look to gain some valuable experience from this tour and make sure they are able to use that knowledge in the next couple of away series in New Zealand and later on in Australia.