Team India has been enjoying their numero uno status for almost a year now. Their three successive wins while chasing 200+ in the last innings was a clear reflection of a successful and consistent unit. Since the Sydney 2008 debacle they are yet to drop a test against Australia and boast a record of 5-0 in the last 8 tests against them. They are 3-1 in last six tests against Sri-Lanka, 2-0 in last five against England and 2-0 in last six against New Zealand. The only team they haven’t convincingly beaten is South Africa. Against the proteas, in the past four years, India has a record of 3-4 in 8 tests and no series win since 2004-05 home series. Thus, practically the upcoming tour to South Africa becomes India’s Final Frontier.
A victory in South Africa will stamp team India’s authority over the highest rank in the tests beyond any doubts. Team doesn’t need to prove its rank to anyone as they have very well earned it with the hard-work over past ten years. However, a victory in South Africa would be sweet icing on the cake and a shut-out reply to all the skeptics. A victory in the upcoming series would also do wonders to the team confidence, just before the major event – World Cup 2011.
South Africa has been a difficult hunting ground for India right from the inaugural tour in 1992-93. Only after three series and four test defeats, India registered their first test triumph in South Africa in 2006-07, the last time they visited. During that visit they had come extremely close to leveling the series, but one bad session on the fourth afternoon of the last test cost them the series. Most of the players from that tour are going back again and would love to conquer the final frontier this time around.
Sehwag is in much better nick this time around has the required freedom from his captain and coach to bat freely, something that he didn’t enjoy during India’s last tour to South Africa. Sachin and Laxamn are in sublime touch in 2010. Twin centuries against the New Zealand side must have boasted Rahul Dravid’s confidence as well. His technique was never in question; perhaps he was just putting too much pressure on himself. The only worries seem to be the lack of form of Gambhir and circumspect approach of Raina towards short pitched bowling, however, Gambhir seem to be regaining his touch and India is lucky to have a strong bench in Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara.
Ishant’s last test provided a decent indication that he’s fit and raring to go, we hope that he brings back the magic of 2007-08 Australia tour. Along with ZK he forms a challenging new ball pair and if Sreesanth can control his aggression then he can be lethal to the batsmen as well. India would be unlikely to use more than one spinner on any of the pace-assisting tracks, hence they appear adequately equipped with spin of Bhajji and Ojha. Team would have to stay sharp in the field and latch on to those tough ones.
Amongst the past four sides that have visited South Africa in the past, this unit looks the most formidable to beat the proteas. South Africa is almost impossible to beat at home. They can defend their fort very well and even the Australians have not been successful that often. Thus the task at hand for team India would be really challenging. Victory in this Safari land would definitely be the crowning glory moments for MSD and his boys. Good luck Team India!!!
-Nikhil Sharad Jadhav