Johannesburg: India will take on South Africa in the first Test match at Centurion on Boxing Day, that is, December 26.
India is still in search of their maiden Test series win on South African soil.
They will once again be up against a quality Proteas pace attack on a fast and bouncy track. India’s vice-captain realizes the importance of this series and knows that it is a great opportunity for his side.
“It’s a huge series for us as a team. We always take away series as a challenge. We have worked really hard on this. Winning in Australia and in England have given us good confidence. The first match of the series is the most important and our focus has been on winning the match and give our best,” said KL Rahul in a press conference.
India has quite a poor record in South Africa as they have won only three Test matches in the ‘Rainbow Nation’ one each under Rahul Dravid, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Virat Kohli.
“I never think about that. The only thing I can do is to prepare better and it is the case for everyone in the team. We have had good preparation. We have prepared the same way as we did in England. As I said, new ball is very important and we have prepared accordingly,” explained vice-captain KL Rahul.
Indian think-tank comprising skipper Virat Kohli and head coach Rahul Dravid will have to take a call on who their No. 5 is going to be with Ajinkya Rahane out of form, Shreyas Iyer scoring a century on his debut and Hanuma Vihari performing well in India A’s tour to South Africa recently.
“It is a very difficult decision to make, obviously. Ajinkya has been a very important part of our Test team and he has played very crucial knocks in his career. In the last 15-18 months, if I can think back, his knock in Melbourne was really crucial and helped us win a Test match. That partnership with Pujara at Lord’s in the second innings, where he got a fifty, was really important. That ended up in us winning the Test match. So he has been a key player of us in that middle-order,” said KL Rahul.
Shreyas Iyer on form certainly looks like a strong contender as he made a great start to his Test career scoring a century in the first innings of his Test debut followed by a half-century in the second innings of the same Test match. Hanuma Vihari has not only performed in India A’s tour but also played gritty knocks in Australia to show his character.
“Shreyas, obviously, has taken his chances. He played a brilliant knock in Kanpur, got a hundred. So he is very excited and Hanuma (Vihari) has also done well for us. It’s a tough decision but we’ll start having the chat probably today or tomorrow. You’ll get to know in a couple of days’ time.” said KL Rahul.
KL Rahul is now the vice-captain of the side and the expectations from him are going to be even more now as he is also expected to be involved with the captain in terms of field placement and strategy.
“I don’t think there has been any. There will be responsibility due to the vice-captaincy. One will play with more responsibility. Otherwise, I don’t think it will make any difference,” explained Rahul.
KL Rahul failed miserably in his last tour to South Africa scoring only 30 runs in four innings. This time around he is expected to work on his previous mistakes and failures in order to give India a solid start.
“I haven’t played a lot of games in SA but my experience is that the pitches could be challenging. Here, the pitch could be spongy. That is the main difference compared to the fast and bouncy pitches of Australia. I tried to play close to my body. That has been the preparation. My focus has been really to play tight and not give away wickets in the first 30-35 overs of the new ball,” said KL Rahul on challenges he will face in South African conditions.
The onus to win Test matches outside the sub-continent will be once again on Indian pacers who managed to take 20 wickets in each Test played in India’s tour to South Africa in 2017/18 and were also brilliant in India’s back-to-back Test series win in Australia.
“Every team wants to pick up 20 wickets. That’s the only way you can win a Test match. We have definitely used that tactic and it has helped us in every Test match that we have played away from India. The workload also becomes slightly easier to manage with five bowlers. When you have that kind of quality, you might as well use it,” said Rahul.
The Indian Test team is on a rampage winning consecutive Test series in Australia and taking an unassailable 2-1 lead in England. Virat Kohli and the company have an opportunity to help India win its first Test match in the ‘Rainbow Nation’.