South African was isolated from international cricket for 22 years, starting 1970, due to the Apartheid. It was only in 1992 that South Africa finally found their way back into international cricket and it was India who supported the bid, even becoming the first team to tour the country the same year.
Six tours have passed since. But Proteas hasn’t returned the favour yet, as India still remain without a Test series win in South Africa to date. Virat Kohli’s Indian cricket team start a fresh campaign this Friday, 5 January, to try and change that skewed head-to-head record.
Virat will be key if India are to make an impact on the frankly terrifying bowling line-up the Proteas have served up – Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris and Andile Phehlukwayo.
But the skipper has a few aces up his sleeve as well. Primarily, his own batting. Kohli comes into the series well-rested, newly-married and on the back of a hugely successful year, both as skipper and batsman. India tied the world record of nine straight Test series wins, leading up to this tour and the skipper scored a massive 1059 Test runs at an average of 75.64. In South Africa, he boasts a pretty healthy Test average of 68 in 2 matches.
In contrast, Proteas’ main-man AB de Villiers enters the series having not played Test cricket in almost two years, barring the one Test against Zimbabwe in December 2017. He scored 53.
There’s also the matter of the drought situation in Newlands to consider – which has reportedly not left enough water for the pitch to be made the ideal green that the local bowlers prefer. Dale Steyn, who is returning to the Test arena after over a year, has all but been ruled out of action this weekend by coach Domingo due to fitness reasons.
India lost the three-match series 0-1 back in 2013, but something to look forward to is the fact that 13 players from the previous tour are part of the squad this time – Virat, Cheteshwar Pujara, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ajinkya Rahane are no more newbies and this isn’t being called India’s best chance for a series win for nothing.
Some injury updates – Shikhar Dhawan gave everyone a scare when he walked around the Mumbai hotel with a limp. However, he was spotted in the nets in Cape Town ready for the opener. Apart from Dale Steyn, Quinton de Kock has recovered from the hamstring strain he picked up during the December Test against Zimbabwe and Faf du Pleases is back from the viral infection that saw him pull out of the Zimbabwe game.
And finally, the race for the Mace!
India are currently ranked number 1 in Tests, but while we all celebrated the Test Mace and the trophies that were won, it was always the wins on the road that would count the most. The Proteas need to beat India 3-0 and then conquer Australia, who visit in March, by a margin of at least 2 Tests to make a legit claim for the hallowed Test Mace.
I don’t like cricket, I LOVE it!
India will tour South Africa for a three-Test, six-ODI and three-Twenty20 series, starting this Friday, January 5 and it is being touted as the most challenging assignment so far for Kohli as captain.
The Men In Blue will play the first Test on January 5, 2018 in Cape Town. Centurion will hold the second Test between the two countries from January 13, while the third and the final Test of the series is scheduled for January 24.