The first test between India and host South Africa gets underway today at the Wanderers in Johannesburg. The Indian captain who suffered an injury during the one day international series between the two sides addressed a press conference in a positive fashion. He asserted that the team still had a few tricks to surprise the opposition and it would be ‘dangerous to write the Indian team off’. But despite such statements, a feel of nerves could be felt.
A whitewash in the one day series has not done any good to the morale of the Indian team which has rested a few players like Irfan Pathan. The team looked jitterey throughout its performance and was found wanting in pacy and bouncy conditions. One felt that they were like a pack of cards waiting to be blown away by a gusty gale of pace bowling!
Not too much has changed for the Indian team since then except for the inclusion of Sourav Ganguly. His inclusion does bolster the team’s batting line-up but one would have to see how he adapts to the short and rising ball. Ntini and Nel would certainly exploit Ganguly’s vulnerability against the rising ball. Dada would have to come with some plan!
Another worry is the opening pair. I would have to admit that Sehwag in these conditions is not the best of batsman for the opener’s slot. Openers in such conditions should be the ‘Mike Atherton’ types who are judicious in their shot selection. A bang bang approach does not help a batsman at the top for he runs the risk of losing his wicket to an ordinary ball too. I would have preferred a batsman like an Akash Chopra instead of Sehwag to open with Jaffer as the duo could drop the anchor and provide a good start upfront.
The bowlers have a better deal as compared to the batsmen but they too will have to bowl out of their skins to get twenty wickets in an innings, a ‘feat’ that seems a distant reality at present. Lack of discipline and inconsistency is something bowlers would have to look out for in their performance. ‘It is not brief spells of excellence intertwined with erratic spells of insouciance that is required but prolonged spells of perseverance and application’!
Although the Indian batting looks formidable on paper, their reputation of being clay targets against a world class bowling attack on bowler friendly conditions is something we already know. The stage is set, the actors ready and another script of agony, discomfort and ignominy could await the Indian team and its batting lineup if it does not adapt to the conditions quickly!
Definitely the underdogs, the Indians would have to play like David to defeat a Goliath of an opposition waiting to maul them.