India and the Proteas will contest a key Test series opener in Visakhapatnam. The Proteas have not won a Test series in India since 2000. How can they get it right this time?
Act more assured than in 2015
- Faf du Plessis was the latest to remind all and sundry of the Proteas’ failures during a plighted Test series against India four years ago. Du Plessis managed a mere 60 runs in seven innings, Imran Tahir played all four matches, Temba Bavuma, Stiaan van Zyl and Vernon Philander opened the batting – several alarming decisions, indeed, across a 3-0 series defeat. Dane Vilas and Simon Harmer have since departed for Kolpak contracts in the United Kingdom and Dale Steyn, Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers have retired, forcing the Proteas to evolve.
Capitalise on Rohit Sharma’s new role
- Sharma has opened the batting on several occasions in ODI and T20I cricket, but never in Tests. He will likely partner Mayank Agarwal at the top of the order this week. Vernon Philander dismissed the newfound opener for a duck in last week’s tour fixture against the Indian Board President’s XI. England’s Jason Roy, too, couldn’t convert success at limited-overs level into significant contributions at Test-match level as an opening batsman.
Beat India at their own spin game
- The Board of Control for Cricket in India will insist on slow, turning pitches, especially in Visakhapatnam. The hosts have predictably named two frontline spinners in the XI – Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. Keshav Maharaj and Dane Piedt aren’t necessarily as experienced as Ashwin and Jadeja, but could generate the same or better results. The Proteas have the option of a third spinner in Senuran Muthusamy and more in part-timers Aiden Markram and Dean Elgar.
Give Markram deserved support
- The opener has found form in sub-continental conditions at the right time. What started with a superb 161 for South Africa A against India A in Mysore continued with a complementary 100 versus the Indian Board President’s XI in Vizianagaram. The rest – Du Plessis, Elgar, Theunis de Bruyn, Temba Bavuma and more – need to follow suit.
Exploit India’s ring-rusty duo
- India have picked Wriddhiman Saha and recalled Ashwin. The former has not played Test cricket since early 2018 and the latter is returning from injury. Saha and Ashwin share 97 Tests, so the experience is there, but being out of the ultimate format for an extended period could toll on both. The inclusion of Saha ahead of the dynamic Rishabh Pant is particularly questionable.
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