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India v South Africa: The Real Test Begins

For months now, I have been lambasted on social media by my fellow writers for my support of India’s resurgence as a side, both in test and ODI cricket. They claim that India’s successful run has come entirely at home, and when the team goes abroad, the age old problems against quality pace bowlers on seaming tracks will once again halt the team’s rise as a true world beater.

They might be true, but to that my response is this: Over the past decade, India has won test series in England, New Zealand, West Indies, while winning tests in South Africa and Australia. While the horrors of 2011/12 will continue to exist until India improves their performance in those countries, the new age of Indian players will have a chance to write their own script.

This opportunity begins tomorrow morning, when India lines up against South Africa in the first of three one-dayers. Even though the tour has been significantly cut short, India will be happy that the three one dayers will give them a chance to acclimatize to South African conditions before the test matches begin.

India’s batting line up has been in phenomenal form this year, with its top three of Dhawan, Sharma and Kohli representing the highest run-getters in ODI cricket this year. That, in part, is due to the run-feast on most Indian wickets this year, but the consistency with which they have scored those runs, including those scored in the Champions Trophy in England, is encouraging. That India beat South Africa in that tournament comfortably as well is another encouraging sign. Still, it will be interesting to see how India’s batsmen play South Africa’s pace battery of Steyn, Morkel, Philander, Tsotsobe tomorrow.

In the bowling department, I hope India are aggressive and chose their three best fast bowlers currently – Umesh Yadav, Mohammad Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Yadav and Shami can work up pace, and will like these conditions. Bhuvneshwar Kumar will enjoy the overcast conditions likely to be on offer in Johannesburg tomorrow, while Shami will be confident on the back of his strong reverse-swing exploits against the Windies.

Captain Dhoni will also have to sport a positive approach in this series. I hope he takes a high amount of responsibility on his shoulders and faces India’s issues head on. He has to be aggressive with his field placings, with his batting order, and his guidance to the team. South Africa has issues in the batting department in ODI cricket, and Dhoni will be well served to exploit those issues, just as Misbah Ul-Haq recently did on Pakistan’s successful tour of South Africa last week.

All in all, I think viewers will see a new India, not phased by lack of experience, and not burdened by history. 2-1 India is my view for the one-dayers. Game on.

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