A Test tour of South Africa is always a good platform to judge the true potential of any team. Visiting teams have always found it difficult to adjust to the pace, bounce and sideways movement on those wickets. Barring England and Australia, no other team has ever won a Test series in this country. For India, South African condition has always been a nemesis as they have only two Test triumphs out of 17 encounters across six tours in that part of the world.
However, prior to their next assignment at the Rainbow Nation, which starts in Cape Town from January 5 with a three-Test series, Indian fans can afford to be a little more optimistic about the chances of Virat Kohli’s team, which is currently at the top of the ICC Test team rankings.
They say, confidence is the key to success. Well, having won their last nine Test series back to back, Kohli’s team is certainly oozing with it. In fact, since the 0-2 defeat against Australia in the 2014-15 tour, they have lost only two Tests out of 31 games, which shows their supremacy in the longest format of the game in the past couple of years.
Yes, eight out of those nine series triumphs have come in sub-continent, but one has to admit that the dominance has given this team a much-belief. Now they are a fearless unit, ready to get out of their comfort zone and take on the tougher challenges. In fact, the team management believes the next 18 months, in which they are scheduled to play Test cricket in South Africa, England and Australia, will ‘define’ this side.
“The conditions will be testing [overseas] but this one-and-a-half year will define this Indian cricket team,” a confident Ravi Shastri, India’s head coach, told reporters during the side’s pre-departure press conference in Mumbai. “The whole team is aware of that and with tours of South Africa, Australia and England coming up in a year and a half, all I can say is this will be a better cricket team after 18 months.”
The sheer class and depth in all three departments is India’s greatest strength going into this overseas cycle, which starts in South Africa. There is the large pool of Test ready players who are good enough to replace any member of the first eleven. (The author has already discussed it in one of his previous pieces for CricketSoccer.)
Furthermore, 13 members of the current squad, including skipper Kohli, were part of the team that toured South Africa in 2013. Some of them, like Murli Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Wriddhiman Saha, Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav were even there in the 2010-11 tour as well. So, these boys have had a fair bit of exposure on those seaming and bouncy wickets and this experience can be a handy asset for India in this upcoming series.
Meanwhile, the only point which is going against India is the lack of proper acclimatisation before the start of the series. Indian team has reached South Africa on Friday and they have had their first practice session on Saturday. Furthermore, the team management has already decided to opt out of their only warm-up fixture before the Cape Town Test. Instead, they have decided to have central wicket practice, involving some of the best available fast bowlers from the Indian domestic circuit.
It is indeed an unconventional approach, which might work for these boys as they don’t believe in conventional thinking.
Having said that, the team, despite all its success in recent years, will be judged on how they perform in this overseas cycle starting from South Africa. Their mark-sheets on these tours will now be subjected to additional scrutiny like it happened to the previous Indian sides.
Thus, this an ideal opportunity for Kohli and Co. to prove to its true potential on unfamiliar territories and it seems they are well equipped to do so. If they can achieve success in this mission, then this team will be considered as one of the best Indian teams ever, if not the best.