India’s successful tour to Australia, albeit loosing the test series but, earned some respect by winning a test and finally winning the CB series must have raised their confidence sky high. They will not hesitate to challenge South Africa on their own home ground and in front of their own home crowd with all the heat and humidity that will be against the South Africans.
The most successful among all the Indian bowlers in Australia was Ishant Sharma, unfortunately he is unfit and hopes to join the squad in the remainder of the matches. It is definitely a setback for India that he is not in action. Also, there is no Zaheer Khan but, RP Singh and Shanta Kumara is back. RP has just recovered from injuries. But to get back into full rhythm is not an easy task, especially for fast bowlers.
Although Indian pitches are tailor-made for spin bowling and one of their spinners Murali Karthik is also injured and he is ruled out too, a lot depends on the old duo of Harbhajan and Kumble. The former is expected to trouble the South Africans more than anyone. Especially Graeme Smith in particular is very vulnerable to spin and he plays a very dominant role in setting up big scores for his side. Therefore getting him early should be the aim for India.
It is not the batting sides of both teams that are any weak, in fact both teams have got very good batsmen. It is the bowlers on both sides who needs to play an important role. Smith believes that his team is very formidable and his bowlers are good enough to bowl out Indian batsmen twice.
Dale Steyn the ‘Phalaborwa Express’ has already created fear in the minds of the famed Indian batting line-up and he is in great form and he is very lethal with the new ball. Therefore, Andre Nel or Charles Langeveldt’s absence may not be felt much. Because, Steyn would be ably supported by Morné Morkel, Makhaya Ntini and Monde Zondeki.
Although, Makhya has not been very successful in the sub-continent but, there are two spinners Paul Harris and Robin Peterson. Indians and Pakistanis both cannot forget Harris he troubled the Indians last year in Cape Town. According to Zaheer Abbass he has “Harrised” the Pakistanis a lot in their own back yard and even got the prized wicket of Inzamam on his last appearance and defied him from breaking Javed Miandad’s record.
Chennai test is not too far away its just a matter of two days and the battle is on. Historically it is a batsmen paradise and a lot of runs have been scored at Chennai. The city was earlier known as, Madras and now it is called Chennai. The stadium was known as Chepauk and now it is called Chidambaram.
India has a good record at Chennai beating England twice in 1951-52 and again in 1983-84 and ending up a historic tie against Australia. Also, India’s leg spinner Narender Hirwani has a test match of his life when he took 16 wickets for 136 runs in Chennai. But, at the same time India also has lost against Pakistan, once during the Independence Cup series in 1997 when Saeed Anwar scored a record 194 in ODI. And they also lost a test match against Pakistan in 1999 when Shahid Afridi scored a century.
The interesting thing emerging from this series is the winner of the India-South Africa series will take the second spot in the ICC official Test rankings, behind Australia. And South Africa have already notched up the first spot in the ODI rankings and must thank India for helping them. Because SA mauling Bangladesh was expect, but India winning the CB series in Australia wasn’t expected by many and that let the downfall of Australia.
Therefore, India have to stop SA from climbing up the rankings by allowing them to use their shoulders. I am sure neither of the two teams will take this 3 test series lightly, it is not just about winning and losing a test it is also a matter of titles now. Hence it is a battle for title.
Now, it is up to the bloggers to discuss and debate the strengths and weakness of the players of both sides and make their own assessment and predictions as to how the series will end.