India in South Africa | India desperate to bounce back; looks to improve standing in WTC points table

South Africa is on top, and it should be hoping to consolidate its position with another strong show against India.

Updated - January 03, 2024 07:20 am IST

Published - January 02, 2024 09:24 pm IST - CAPE TOWN

Indian cricketers are seen during a practice session ahead of the second Test against South Africa in Cape Town.

Indian cricketers are seen during a practice session ahead of the second Test against South Africa in Cape Town. | Photo Credit: PTI

Table Mountain looks majestically down on Cape Town.

The flat-topped mountain lends a stunning backdrop to this gorgeous city, caressed by the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, on the West Coast of South Africa. On the foothills of the mountain lies the Newlands Cricket Ground, one of the world’s most beautiful sporting venues.

Even as the Indian and South African cricketers practised under a blazing sun on January 2, they may well have paused for a moment, to take in the beauty of the ground, the surroundings. Quite a number of people had gathered at the venue, including a trio of Bangladeshi immigrants, one of whom swears only by Virender Sehwag, but he would do with Rohit Sharma for the time being.

By the time the likes of Shubman Gill and Yashasvi Jaiswal padded up to train at nets, the size of the spectators had grown rapidly. The two young batters would come under a bigger scrutiny in the second Test, starting on Wednesday.

Having lost the first at Centurion rather badly, India will be desperate to bounce back, ideally with a win, which it needs not just for its morale but for improving its standing on the World Test Championship points table. It is very early days yet, but the finalist of the last two championships is lying sixth.

South Africa is on top, and it should be hoping to consolidate its position with another strong show against India. In Temba Bavuma’s absence, opener Dean Elgar will lead the side.

It was as if destiny willed the opener to have this honour. This is his final Test. Few men have held a cricket bat with as much pride and grit.

His teammates will surely want to give him a fitting farewell. Bavuma’s absence means that Zubayr Hamza could play a Test match for the first time in nearly two years; his last was against New Zealand at Christ Church.

The South African squad that will be touring New Zealand for a two-Test series next month has been a talking point around cricketing circles; there are only seven capped players, because of the clash of dates with SA20. But it is a near full strength squad that is taking on India.

The batting, featuring the likes of the in-form Tony de Zorzi, David Bedingham, who debuted well in the last Test and Aidam Markram, and the bowling, spearheaded by the magnificent Kagiso Rabada, looks sharp, too. The attack also has Nandre Burger, who picked up seven wickets on debut and Marco Jansen; they could be joined by Keshav Mharaj, as the wicket is expected to turn later on.

So could India be tempted to play both Ravindra Jadeja, who is fit again, and R. Ashwin? It would also be interesting to see if India would make a change in the pace department, as well by bringing in Avesh Khan or Mukesh Kumar or give another opportunity to Prasidh Krishna.

And India surely needs a much-improved batting display. Rohit, Shreyas Iyer, Gill and Jaiswal will have to try what Kohli and K.L. Rahul did at Centurion.

As for records, India has never won a Test on this ground. There is a first time for everything, or course.

The teams (from)

India: Rohit Sharma (Capt.), Yashasvi Jaiswal, Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, K.L. Rahul, Ravindra Jadeja, R. Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, Prasidh Krishna, Avesh Khan, Shardul Thakur, K.S. Bharat and Abhimanyu Easwaran.

South Africa: Dean Elgar (Capt.), Aiden Markram, Tony de Zorzi, Keegan Petersen, David Bedingham, Kyle Verreynne, Marco Jansen, Kagiso Rabada, Keshav Maharaj, Nandre Burger, Lungi Ngidi, Wiaan Mulder, Zubayr Hamza and Tristan Stubbs.

Match starts at 1.30 p.m.

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