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Are Indians up for the pace test?

PTI
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India have never won a bilateral ODI series in South Africa

Top heavy?Dale Steyn (picture), along with Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander and Jacques Kallis, would be keen to exploit the poor form of the Indian middle-order as Yuvraj and Raina are still looking to find their feet.photo: AP
Top heavy?Dale Steyn (picture), along with Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander and Jacques Kallis, would be keen to exploit the poor form of the Indian middle-order as Yuvraj and Raina are still looking to find their feet.photo: AP

Gaining in confidence with every series, India’s in-form young batsmen are set to be put through their sternest test this season when the team takes on the mighty South Africa in a three-match ODI series starting here on Thursday.

Indian batsmen versus South African bowlers

For Team India, it will be an exercise to reaffirm faith in their young batsmen. This is the same bunch that has been busy lighting up cricket grounds with some breathtaking stroke-play.

Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, each have scored more than thousand runs in ODIs played this calendar year, each of them averaging over fifty.

Their confidence is sky-high at the moment and in their respective purple patches, all they can think of is playing the next match and batting on.

Their great run has meant that the Indian batting has started to look top-heavy, and this is the second point, albeit a bit worrisome.

Along with the inform top-order and below Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina, is Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who too has maintained his touch this year.

This will be a test unlike any other in the 11 months gone by, on pitches which will afford more bounce and are likely to cater to the hosts’ traditional strength – pace.

The hosts will be eager to unleash Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander and Jacques Kallis at the first available opportunity.

For the Proteas, going up against the top-ranked ODI side, this is a chance to ascertain their own plans in this format after some patchy display in the past year.

Handling pressure

After Gary Kirsten stepped down as coach, and AB de Villiers’ none too impressive captaincy run so far, the team is still trying to find its feet under current coach Russell Domingo. His biggest aim will be to find a cure for this team’s pain-point – failure to handle pressure and close out games.

While Indian batsmen versus South African bowlers will prove to be the key contest, the Indian bowlers too have a chance to get onto the stage.

With conditions affording a better balance between bat and ball, they can hope to tide over their shortcomings and put on a better display.

As such, picking the right combination will be vital for both sides. For South Africa, Kallis’ presence has always been a boon.

Yet, with his advanced years now, they are beginning to question his utility to the side, with the 2015 World Cup starting to appear in the distant horizon. This series could be an exercise in that direction. India too will be on a similar quest.PTI


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