Cape Town: Virat Kohli’s talismanic presence will be the shot in the arm India would need to win the historic first-ever away Test series against South Africa, but the hosts will also have a spring in their stride in the final Test that Tuesday starts here.
Kohli missed the final test in Johannesburg due to back cramps and if training in the Newlands was anything to pass up, the skipper will miss the series final for nothing with the two teams tied at 1-1. The hosts are sure to appreciate their chances after a fighting performance tied them up in the second Test.
And as he plays his 99th Test on what will also be his daughter’s first birthday, the Kohli batter wants to make it a special one for the ‘captain’, who has been under tremendous pressure lately.
Nothing is more successful than success and winning the first-ever test series in South Africa in three decades is sure to come about Kohli as one of the largest to lead the country in the traditional format.
And to do that, the team’s batting, which hasn’t exactly been more than mediocre, needs to improve a few steps and perhaps a score over 300 in the first inning will set the tone.
There are players whose presence alone gives a team an extra psychological boost, and the Indian Skipper is one such character.
Whether he’s batting or on the field, Kohli’s presence can always be unsettling to the opposition, who will no doubt plan differently for him, even if it means he hasn’t had a hundred for two years.
But if you look closely at Kohli’s percussion in these two years, unlike Pujara and Rahane, he looked much more confident until his release.
It was either a good ball or a bad shot that got him and not a lack of confidence and nervous starts that could send the locker room into a panic.
Hanuma Vihari may feel badly cheated after two brawls – especially the 40 not knocked out in the second innings in Johannesburg – but it’s such a beast that he would be the sacrificial lamb until Team India regained confidence in Cheteshwar Pujara’s abilities and Ajinkya Rahane regains .
Many pundits have suggested that Kohli should curb his instinct to play off-drive or his favorite cover drive, as Sachin Tendulkar did against Brett Lee in Sydney in 2004, when he didn’t offside until he reached his double hundred.
But Kohli has his own methods and the madness associated with them. If Sunday’s practice has anything to offer, he would still make the cover drive if he gets one thrown at length for the shot.
However, it will also be about the deliveries that he or some of the others would choose for a particular type of shooting.
A prime example of this is Rishabh Pant, whose walk down the track at a brisk pace for the past few months had a lot of “intent” but not much “content”.
On a Newlands course, which will be juicy with variable bounce, India will have to fight much better against Kagiso Rabada, Duanne Olivier, Lungi Ngidi and Marco Jansen, all of whom bring different skills to the table.
India has never won a test in Cape Town and for a change in script the three middle-class veterans have to do a lot more than what they did at the Wanderers.
However, Newlands has seen some epic battles, none better than the one in the 2010-11 series when Tendulkar and Dale Steyn were locked in one of the most exciting hours Test cricket could have ever witnessed.
There is a certain beauty to survival and in beautiful Newlands, Steyn used all his gram to test the repertoire of skills of a master batter.
Pujara and Rahane should do more
Pujara and Rahane, with their respective half-centuries, have been given a lifeline, but that certainly won’t be enough to save their careers unless they do something really big and important.
If turning fifty was a positive sign, it was certainly disappointing not to turn good starts into big hundreds.
Also KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal want to give the team a good start against the fiery South African line-up.
Ishant seems ready for comeback, Bumrah is looking for improvement
Like Pujara and Rahane, Ishant Sharma is at the corporate end of his blocked international career and Mohammed Siraj’s hamstring injury will certainly give him some breathing room after the indifferent last six months in which he lost form, had niggles and didn’t do well enough to last long. to stay in the mix.
Still, the nature of South African circuits and his six-foot-tall frame, with the ability to bowl girl after girl, makes him a better choice than Umesh Yadav, who is a comparably bullish workhorse.
But it will be Jasprit Bumrah, who wants to improve his stroke rate, which has dropped since coming back from his back injury.
Dean Elgar, Rassie van der Dussen and Temba Bavuma were not bothered by his mindless short pitching and the Indian pendulum is eager to do what he does best, bowling fast and full with deviant deliveries on both sides of the lane.
That would go a long way in making sure they have a great party at Table Top after January 15th.
India: Virat Kohli (Captain), KL Rahul (vc), Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Shardul Thakur, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Ajinkya Rahane, Wriddhiman Saha ( wk), Jayant Yadav, Priyank Panchal, Umesh Yadav, Hanuma Vihari, Ishant Sharma.
South Africa: Dean Elgar (Captain), Temba Bavuma (Vice Captain), Kagiso Rabada, Sarel Erwee, Beuran Hendricks, George Linde, Keshav Maharaj, Lungi Ngidi, Aiden Markram, Wiaan Mulder, Keegan Petersen, Rassie van der Dussen, Kyle Verreynne, Marco Jansen, Glenton Stuurman, Prenelan Subrayen, Sisanda Magala, Ryan Rickelton, Duanne Olivier.
Match starts at 1:30 PM.
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