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South Africa vs India – Test Series Preview

Virat Kohli and Dean click a picture with the trophy
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After conquering the Aussie shores and dominating England in England, the Men in Blue turn their attention to South Africa as Virat Kohli’s side look to become the first Indian team to win a Test series in the Rainbow Nation. India have been the best touring side in world cricket over the past few years, and here are some of the major talking points ahead of this highly anticipated three-match series.

▶ India’s Number Five Conundrum


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The biggest selection headache for Virat Kohli and Rahul Dravid before the first Test at Centurion is who should bat at number five for India. The spot currently belongs to Ajinkya Rahane, who has been publicly backed by Kohli despite being stripped of the vice-captaincy. Although Rahane averages over 50 in Tests in South Africa, the middle order batter has endured a torrid time in 2021, averaging a career-low mark of 19.5 and scoring only two half-centuries in 21 innings.

Rahane could be replaced in the starting XI by Shreyas Iyer – who impressed with his century on debut against New Zealand – or Hanuma Vihari, who has already played three four-day games in South Africa with India A and scored three half-centuries.

Without Ravindra Jadeja or Rohit Sharma, India are already fielding a weakened batting lineup for this series, and in light of Rahane’s recent form, the management might have to take a bold call to give the team the best chance of success in South Africa.

▶ The South African Threat


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While the current South African side might not be as formidable compared to their teams from the years gone by, the Proteas can never be underestimated in Test cricket, especially in their backyard. In Anrich Nortje and Kagiso Rabada, South Africa have two of the premier fast bowlers in world cricket that can rattle any opposition lineup with their pace and bounce. 

The Proteas also welcome the return of Duanne Olivier to their Test setup after nearly three years. Olivier is the in-form man in domestic cricket for South Africa and currently leads their first-class wicket charts this season with 28 scalps at an average of 11.1. With the bat, the Proteas also have players capable of hurting India, with Aiden Markram, Dean Elgar, Temba Bavuma and Quinton de Kock all averaging over 40 in Tests in 2021. 

▶ India’s Pace Battery


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If India are to make history and win their maiden Test series in South Africa, Virat Kohli will once again rely on his fast-bowling quartet, who have consistently made the difference on away tours in recent times. Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma are three of the top four wicket-takers in away Tests since 2018, picking up 227 wickets between them in just 56 combined matches. 

In addition to that trio, Mohammed Siraj has impressed heavily since his debut on boxing day in 2020 – picking up 33 strikes at a healthy average of 27 – while Umesh Yadav and Shardul Thakur have been solid contributors when called upon.

This Test series against South Africa is a seminal moment for the Men in Blue, considering their journey to the top began on their previous tour to the Rainbow Nation. India’s first marquee Test win under Virat Kohli came at the Wanderers in 2018, and after travelling the world and conquering Brisbane, Melbourne and Lord’s, a fitter, stronger and wiser team returns to South African shores to finish the job they started four years ago.


[Featured Image Credit: Indian Cricket Team]