21 March 2018 02:46 AM



Onus On Indian Batsmen to Come Good

What can the Indians do different at Centurion to keep the series alive?

India will have to look at a similar situation in South Africa seven years ago for inspiration as they nurture hopes of coming back into the ongoing series. On that occasion too India lost the first Test only to win the next game on their way to leveling the three match series – the only time they have returned from that country with a squared contest. In fact in 2010-11 they lost the first Test at Centurion by an innings before turning the tables a week later with an 87-run victory at Durban.

Incidentally the second Test which commences on Saturday is at Centurion where conditions traditionally favour the fast bowlers even more than Cape Town. Of course the Indian pace attack is as good as South Africa’s as they showed in the first Test so that should not be an area of concern. What is the worrying factor is whether the Indian batsmen will fare better against the South African pace quartet than they did at Cape Town.

Even the absence of Dale Steyn there is enough arsenal in the pace attack and this was proved beyond doubt at Cape Town. And the South African coach Otis Gibson has said that they will continue to play four fast bowlers so there really will be no respite for the beleaguered Indian batting line-up. To counter a quartet of menacing fast bowlers in rather helpful conditions require batting that is high on guts, technique and temperament and these qualities were missing in the first Test.

So what can the Indians do different at Centurion to keep the series alive? A lot has been made of the selection of the team for the first Test particularly with regard to the inclusion of Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma and the exclusion of Lokesh Rahul and vice captain Ajinkya Rahane. To be candid South Africa always looked the better team and whether the inclusion or exclusion of certain players would have led to a different result is debatable.

However failures have to be replaced and an attempt should be made to make the team stronger and with both Dhawan and Rohit not contributing significantly they should be replaced particularly when there are ready replacements. A third inclusion Jasprit Bumrah also raised eyebrows especially as it meant keeping senior paceman Ishant Sharma out but the youngster had an impressive debut and there is little doubt that he will keep his place for the second Test. I for one would always advocate the inclusion of Bumrah who is on his way up while Ishant quite clearly is on his way down.

There is also the choice of the lone spinner. It is difficult to keep Ravi Ashwin out both on grounds of seniority and performance though there is very little to choose between him and Ravindra Jadeja on both counts. Ashwin’s role at Cape Town was predictably restricted. He sent down only 8.1 overs in the game to pick up the wickets of two tailenders in the first innings. To be candid it should not matter much who plays at Centurion for the workload and the damage will be done by the pacemen. Ashwin’s better batting credentials however might still give him the edge. He did after all top score with 37 in India’s dismal second innings.

Ultimately it is the batting that holds the key to an Indian revival. One can expect the Indian pace trio to be among the wickets and keep a leash even on the strong South African batting line-up. It is not beyond India for on paper at least they have five good batsmen, two all rounders who have got five Test hundreds between them and a keeper who has got three Test hundreds. These are the kind of credentials that one would not normally link with the debacle at Cape Town. The batsmen should play up to their potential and display the qualities at Centurion that went missing in the first Test – dedication, determination and concentration. Yes, these age-old, traditional characteristics are still very much associated with batting of the highest order.