India in South Africa: Wounded India aim to bounce back in Centurion

first_imgPride will be at stake for India when they take on South Africa in the second Test at the SuperSport Park, Centurion starting Saturday. India, who after nine successive Test series triumphs, face litmus Test after going down by 72 runs in the first Test at Cape Town earlier this week.While the Indian pacers are expected to exploit the conditions at the SuperSport Park once again after grabbing 17 wickets at a lively Newlands pitch, the focus will be on India’s top five batsmen, who combined to put on board only 130 in both the innings.Bounce, seam and swing were all there to see at Newlands and SuperSport Park is expected to be no less lively. South Africa have not lost at this venue since 2014.South Africa head coach Otis Gibson has already expressed his desire to stick with a four-pronged pace attack. The hosts went into the Newlands Test with their strongest quartet of seamers — Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander, Morne Morkel and Kagiso Rabada. Veteran Steyn injured his left heel midway through the match and has been sidelined for up to six weeks.One of all-rounders Chris Morris and Andile Phehlukwayo is most likely to be included in place of Steyn to strengthen their batting which din’t perform on expected lines.Rookie pacers Duanne Olivier and Lungi Ngidi have been added to the squad and skipper Faf du Plessis may be lured into fielding either of them. Keshav Maharaj will be the lone spinner in the team.To stand up to the pacers, Indian batsmen have a lot of areas to improve upon. The conditions are far different from that of the sub-continent and India didn’t even play a warm-up game prior to the first Test.advertisementHaving experienced the conditions in the first Test, the Indian batsmen will be hopeful of giving a better account of themselves.Some of them played reckless shots — which would have worked on a slow pitch — in the first Test and coming into the second game, they would have got a measure of the task ahead.India’s team is full of stroke-makers like Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Hardik Pandya. Their attitude of dominating the bowlers with a flurry of strokes will not work. Instead they must harness the art of controlling the pace quartet. They must curtail their habit of going after the deliveries.Calls for the inclusion of Ajinkya Rahane, known for his quiet approach, instead of fellow Mumbaikar Rohit Sharma have grown over the few days. It will not be a surprise if one of Dhawan or Rohit sit out, while Karnataka right-hander Lokesh Rahul — a stroke-maker but with a judicious batting approach — may find himself in the openers’ slot.Though the less flamboyant ones, Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara also failed, they are trusted to in these conditions, especially the dogged Saurashtra right-hander.If Kohli wins the toss, opting to bowl will be an obvious option. Doing so will not only shield the batsmen from the early onslaught of the hosts’ pacemen but also allow the visiting bowlers to run into the opposition with full steam.last_img read more