Source: The Hitavada      Date: 01 Jan 2018 09:48:17

THE new year begins with a challenging cricket tour for Team India under Virat Kohli’s leadership. For the past nearly couple of years the team has played in domestic conditions and has had an upper hand over almost all the visiting teams, winning series after series, so much so that they nearly dominated all the three formats of the game. Away from sub-continental conditions now, Virat Kohli’s team will have a real testing time during the three-Test series against South Africa.

During his first press conference in Cape Town Virat Kohli said that although in the last four years, since the last tour of South Africa, the team has gained much in experience and is ready to take on the challenge that the host team’s speed merchants my offer, there is no delusion about the conditions that may be presented by the hosts. Coach Ravi Shastri too sounds positive when he says that the present team has the experience and the bench strength to meet any challenge by the South African fast bowlers.

Both the captain and coach are aware of what kind of welcome to expect from the hosts when they take to the field on January 5. Bouncier and speedier stuff awaits Team India and there is much awareness among the Indian batsmen, who have been on song during domestic series and are raring to go to test new grounds in South Africa. When the Sri Lankans were on a tour of India, which Indian team made a clean sweep of, India treated that engagement with the islanders as a preparation for the impending South African tour.

How far that has helped in preparation would be known in a few days. But Sunil Gavaskar, writing in his newspaper column, feels that India should have had a few practice games before the series began. He has disapproved of the team’s move not to have a single practice game before the tour began. However, Kohli seems to differ with him because according to him it is not known what kind of practice pitches the hosts would offer. He does not want to waste two days on such meaningless games but would concentrate on serious practice sessions. This seems to be a very pragmatic approach. Besides, Virat Kohli has the services of a highly experienced Ravi Shastri while taking decisions. The two together can deliver.

Apart from the solid batting strength which the Indian team now boasts of, the pace bowling department has much to offer to the South African hosts, unlike in the past. It is a genuine pace bowling attack which has been performing very well. Now that the conditions would be suitable to their kind of craft they would enjoy the outing. They will have the backing of highly skilled spin bowlers. The reality check of course is nearer.