Jittery India aim to stay afloat against daunting SA

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 13 Jan 2018 09:55:52


CENTURION,

Jan 12,

(PTI),

SECOND TEST 

STARTS 1.30 PM

OUTPLAYED in the lung-opener, India will have to resolve a few selection puzzles and respond better to the sharp bounce when they square off against a redoubtable South Africa in the do-or-die second Test, starting here from Saturday. India’s record of nine consecutive series victories will be on the line from Saturday after the hosts took a 1-0 lead in the three-match series by registering a 72-run win in the first Test in Cape Town. It is only the second match in India’s 12-Test long overseas schedule in 2018-19, and already they are faced with a must-not-lose situation in a bid to keep this series alive. Surrendering a 2-0 lead to South Africa will not dent their No 1 ICC Test ranking, but that will be of little consolation when the post-mortem of the performance is done back home.In order to get this Test off on the right foot, the Indian team management will be looking to get their selection on the money.

On Thursday, 48 hours before the first ball is bowled, Team India held an intense practice session at the Supersport Park, which lasted just under four hours.The usual suspects went about their job in predictable manner. Cheteshwar Pujara practised catching at first slip; Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma batted in tandem at the nets, while Ajinkya Rahane stood a mute spectator for a major part of this session.He did face some throw-downs from assistant coach Sanjay Bangar towards the end, as did Shikhar Dhawan, but neither of them faced any real fast bowling.

KL Rahul, Murali Vijay and Pujara batted in adjacent nets, followed by Kohli and Rohit, and then Hardik Pandya and Wriddhiman Saha, pointing to another five-batsmen line-up.
It is in keeping with the team management’s belief that this was the optimal choice for the first Test, never mind a lack of practice or collapsing for 135 in the second innings. Rahul for Dhawan is the obvious change. Overall, the latter averages 43.72 overseas in 19 Tests, a touch more than his career average of 42.62 (29 matches). Take into consideration his record in Australia, New Zealand, England and South Africa in singularity, and this comes down considerably to 27.81 (11 Tests).

On the South African soil alone, this plummets further to 18.00 in three Tests without a single half-century. His highest is 29 on the 2013-14 tour.These figures are worrisome in themselves, let alone Dhawan’s poor shot selection in both innings of the first Test.Rahul, in comparison, allows for more solidity at the top given that he is comparatively a more technical batsman.Alternately, the Rohit-Rahane conundrum isn’t as simple. The Indian skipper spelled out that this particular selection was based on form.
Despite Rohit’s twin failures—11 and 10—in Cape Town, it doesn’t make any sense for the think-tank to reverse this decision after just one match.

The other conundrum is regarding bowling attack. Hardik Pandya is a shoe-in after his previous showing, and it only leaves Kohli with four spots to play with. This is where the pitch comes in. On Thursday, the track seemed a hard and bouncy one with only a little sprinkling of green grass, quite unlike the one at Newlands. There is a school of thought that a track replicating the one in the first Test could have seen India dropping the spinner altogether.

Instead, the good bounce and lack of lateral movement might just play well for batsmen on both sides. It would surely bring in the spinner as the match progresses.As such, it remains to be seen if Kohli changes his pace combination. On Thursday, Umesh Yadav batted and bowled in the nets with vigour.Ishant Sharma, having recovered from illness, looked sharp as well. The duo have played 115 Tests, yet could again lose out to the one-match old Jasprit Bumrah if India retain their attack.In comparison to the pensive Indian camp, South Africa seemed at ease as they went about practising for the second Test.

The hosts’ only selection issue is in finding an apt replacement for the injured Dale Steyn. Youngster Lungi Ngidi is a contender to make his Test debut on home-soil, allowing the Proteas to replicate the four-man pace attack from the previous game. Even so, all-rounder Chris Morris is more likely to get the nod. South Africa are comfortable fielding a three-plus-one front-line attacking formula, yet Morris’ inclusion helps beef up both their batting and bowling.

Teams (from): India: Virat Kohli (c), Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Hardik Pandya, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Parthiv Patel.

South Africa: Faf du Plessis (c), Deal Elgar, Aiden Markram, Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Theunis de Bruyne, Quinton de Kock (wk), Keshav Maharaj, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, Andile Phehlukwayo, Lungi Ngidi, Duanne Olivier.

Match starts at: 1.30 pm IST.

 

‘Leave outside off-stump deliveries’

Former player Borde’s advice to Indian batsmen

PUNE,

Jan 12,

(PTI),

FORMER batsman Chandu Borde has some advice for the Indian batsmen who struggled in the first Test in South Africa—stay a bit outside the crease and leave the balls pitched outside the off-stump.India were crushed by 72 runs in the first Test at Cape Town as the visiting batsmen failed to chase a modest 208 target after being shot out for 135 to give South Africa a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.

Borde, who served as the vice-captain of the Indian team under Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, also exuded confidence that the Virat Kohli-led side would bounce back in the second Test starting at Centurion on Saturday. “First thing is to stay there on the wicket, which is important, and particularly to leave the ball that is pitched outside the off stump. Many of our batsmen were either caught behind or were caught in the slips,” Borde told PTI in an interaction at his hometown.“Therefore they should change their technique in such a way that anything that pitches outside the off stump, they should try and leave in the beginning and once you get set to that bounce and pace then play the shots,” said the 83-year-old Borde who was among the finest Indian batsmen of his era against pace bowling.

Borde, a former Chairman of national selectors, also advised the Indian batsman to “Another thing I would suggest is that instead of standing in the crease, they should stand outside the crease at least by 6 inches and meet the ball earlier and do not allow it to swing more,” he said.“If that can be adjusted, and it is not very difficult to do, I am sure you can cope up with this kind of attack,” said Borde, a 55-Test veteran. Borde described the current Indian team as one of the best sides to visit South Africa and exuded confidence that the visitors would make a strong comeback in the second Test which commences in Centurion on Saturday.

“Frankly, it (the first Test) was a good match. Now the South Africans must be worried about the way they got out in the second innings and the way our bowlers bowled there,” he said.“Our batsmen could not perform on that wicket, but I am sure in the second Test match, you will find a different Indian side.“Because one thing I have observed, this is one of the best teams that is visiting South Africa. This team has got the potential, they have got the players who can perform really well in any sort of condition,” he remarked.

The Pune-born former cricketer said it is easier for bowlers to adjust to the conditions, but batsmen needed at least 2-3 practice games to acclimatise.“First match, ok, this was quite an eye-opener to them. They haven’t played on this type of wicket recently. So to get acclimatised to such kind of wickets, you require to play at least 2-3 practice matches. That really helps particularly the batsmen to get used to the bounce of the wicket.

“Bowlers can adjust their line and length easily. For a batsman to adjust is big challenge. I am sure they will come back strongly in the 2nd Test,” he added.Borde also said he would like to see KL Rahul in the playing eleven instead of Shikhar Dhawan when asked whether such a switch needs to be done.“It could be useful, because opening start is important for the team. I would like to see Rahul as an opener. He is a person who leaves the ball outside the off stump.“They (South Africa) have worked out a plan to get Shikhar Dhawan out by bouncing the ball, which Shikhar finds it difficult to avoid or hook. So, if Rahul comes, he is a different player, he is technically also sound. So it could be a good move to get him (Rahul) in,” he added.He also expressed surprise that Murali Vijay had abandoned his normal method of leaving the balls pitched outside the off in the opening Test and paid the penalty.

“Vijay used to leave the ball outside the off stump and I am surprised that he was chasing that ball. Now, I am sure he would have thought about it and he must have practised and you will see a different player. He has got a good technique. It will be a good combination of Rahul and Vijay.”Borde also heaped praise on Kohli for his positive mindset and said it would help in galvanising the players.

“Virat Kohli has got a positive mind and is willing to face any team because his mindset is such that he likes to face the challenge with confidence. “He has got that confidence and he brings that confidence in the players, so that motivates the players,” the right-handed batsman signed off.