It is always good to be on familiar territory and show case your skills. Its always easier and you perform at ease in comfort and probably give out your optimum performance. You can also at times be lax and get away with it. But true champions are those who perform in adverse conditions, under pressure, when the opposition is baying for their blood…
On 16th December Indian cricket will begin another one of such tests. The series in South Africa begins and India will be looking to forget their ghosts of the past and actually put one across the Proteas. India has managed to win just 1 out of 12 test matches in South Africa. South Africa even more than Australia has been a difficult country to tour for India. These two frontiers are still not captured by the Indian team and I will only feel our team is the best one if they can win a test series in Africa and Australia, that will be the true benchmark. Something I am sure the ageing stars would love to have in their CV. I will stick my neck out and say even more than the world cup !!!
Amazingly India has always been able to bring out their best when playing Australia, even when touring down under. However against the Proteas somehow the same cannot be said. Last time we toured South Africa, we were 1-0 up, but, then suddenly the lack of experience of winning in hostile environments came about, India played defensively trying to hold on to their 1-0 lead and some unexplicable batting led to us losing the series 2-1. However the scenes after the 1st test in South Africa are still fresh in my mind. SreeSanth running down the track and smacking Nel for a six and the celebrations after winning the test with Sachin running about trying to pour water on his team mates was something that told you how much it meant to him, and them as a team.
Make no mistake about the fact that Sachin, Rahul, Laxman are probably the ones who want to win the most and not just win but set their own records right, Sachin averages 39.76, Rahul averages 33.60 and Laxman averages 41.11, even Sehwag averages 26.44. India and its famed batting line up have been cut to pieces once too often in South Africa. At times there have been brilliant individual batting performances however they have been few and far in between.
The only test that India have won on the South African soil was because of a blistering spell of bowling by SreeSanth, who to be fair has not delivered any performance anywhere near to that day in Johannesburg where I could not believe I was reading the score right watching South Africa in tatters !!!!
But the one thing that is different from all other sides that have toured earlier is this team is certainly not lacking in belief, Dhoni and his men surely believe then have it in them to do it. The stalwarts all want to set the record straight and thankfully for a change we have a seam attack where we have 3 really good options.
The batting will surely hold itself up. They might falter once or maybe twice, but its difficult to imagine this line up failing 3-4 times without a decent score. The reason I feel optimistic about this team is if served with green pitches, which I am rather sure they will, this Indian team has the fire-power in the bowling department. I am really hoping that Ishant and SreeSanth can be consistent, fit and provide support to Zaheer. If these three bowl well in the three Test Matches I think India will have the Proteas under immense pressure.
Taking 20 wickets and scoring runs is what is going to win you test matches. Sounds simple doesn’t it ? It is a whole lot more difficult then it sounds. But what India can ill afford to do is to get bogged down in the batting department. I am hoping and praying Rahul will find his touch. His, is a crucial number, he bats at his best when the ball is coming on to the bat and he is trying to score runs. If Sehwag falls early and if Rahul gets bogged down it can be infectious and dangerous for the team. India will have to attack and that does not mean mindless attack but when there is a loose delivery it must not be spared.
“Champions aren’t just optimists. They are people who have risked everything in order to win.” – Serena Williams
India would do well to attack the loose balls and keep the South African pace battery under pressure, for if they allow them to bowl, the four seamers will be relentless and India can play into the hands of the opposition. India has an attacking line-up and it must play that way.
This South African team might not have Smith thanks to his injury and that could be a huge plus, because Smith is a very strong leader and not having him will be an advantage for India.
This tour could well be the make or break for Raina, if he performs in these conditions and is able to overcome his ghosts against the short pitched stuff he would have cemented the no.6 position or else his Test Career may well be destined to just success in Indian conditions. He is the most obvious weakling in the Indian line up and I actually want Pujara in the XI ahead of Raina but the Indian skipper has immense faith in Raina and I think he will be in the first XI starting on 16th. Also Dhoni as a batsman will have to be his own natural self, no more prodding all the time, he needs to bring out his cut and pull and smash them. His performance will have a huge bearing on the psyche of the team.
If Sehwag can succeed and run away with starts then India will be really difficult to hold back, coz if India score runs, this time they certainly have the bowling attack to take on the Proteas. Sehwag & Steyn will be the contest of this Christmas and it will be one where none will take a backward step. It should be really exciting to watch. India must keep Steyn quiet, difficult it will be for sure, coz he bowls a great line and swings it at pace. Morkel will be relatively easier to work with if Steyn is leaking runs. South Africa has their own headaches about their 3rd seamer and Kallis I don’t think is a force he was in the past. This lack of support bowlers could be India’s biggest advantage. Paul Harris I doubt will have a major impact in the series.
Amla and De-villiers will be the men to watch out for in the Proteas team. They are in great form and both of them bat for longer periods of time so India will be hoping they can get them cheaply. It will be an exciting series with so many young batsmen who will be the future icons going at it, Amla, Gambhir, Sehwag, De-villiers et all will hold centre stage. Kallis would probably be his consistent self and drop anchor, he like Dravid will be the critical factor in South Africa’s line-up.
It goes without saying, that I cant wait till the first ball of the Indian innings bowled by Steyn is smashed to the point boundary by Sehwag. However there is a very, very good chance that Steyn would have Sehwag ducking to the first delivery !!!!!!