The difference between India and South Africa in the Test series might just come down to who has the more effective bowling attack.
The two bowling attacks will be a deciding factor in the series. This is where the availability of R Ashwin for India becomes crucial. India need him desperately because I think the rest of their bowling attack is pretty ordinary.
Ashwin is key to their attack and their success because he can help them take the 20 wickets that is needed to win a Test match.
Virat Kohli is other key player for India. He hasn’t had great tour so far and will be under added pressure to perform after taking over the captaincy from MS Dhoni. If Ashwin and Kohli do well India will be difficult to beat. If not, I think South Africa have a great chance of winning the series.
All the pressure will be on India to win the Test series after they lost both the T20 and ODI series and that will benefit South Africa. It might force India to be more conservative so it will be interesting to see how they go about it.
There has been so much talk about the length of this tour and it being such a big away series for South Africa, but I don’t think that is quite true. South Africa are clearly very comfortable playing and touring in India and the role the IPL have played in that can’t be underestimated.
That is why I believe this is not an away series for the Proteas after all. They have probably played more cricket in India over the last few years than in South Africa!
Looking at the make-up of the side, I would like to see AB de Villiers bat at N0 4 followed by Faf du Plessis at N0 5. I just don’t see much use in having AB at five. That will allow Hashim Amla to move back to N0 3 where he has scored most of his runs.
I would like to see Imran Tahir be the frontline spinner for the first Test and hopefully JP Duminy will also be passed fit because he adds vital balance to the side with his ability to bowl off-spin.
The final change I would make is bring in Kagiso Rabada for Vernon Philander. The Indians play medium pacers pretty well and they can be suspect against the short ball.
I don’t see Rabada making his debut in the first game as a gamble. Philander hasn’t produced the goods in a while and I don’t think the youngster will do any worse if given a chance.
My XI for the first Test: Dean Elgar, Stiaan van Zyl, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis, JP Duminy, Dane Vilas, Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada, Morne Morkel, Imran Tahir.