Different team, stiff challenge but the same old questions.
There weren’t many old talking points after India’s show with the ball against Pakistan. Why would there be? The unit fired in unison and made easy work of an inexperienced batting line-up. That performance had everything – Shami’s yorkers, Umesh’s pace and Ashwin’s craftsmanship. (Full Coverage| Points table| Fixtures)
But come Sunday, the stakes will be different, and much higher. A lot would be expected from India when they lock horns against the Proteas in front of a packed MCG. Ahead of the much-anticipated contest, MS Dhoni-led unit, buoyed by the opening win, exude confidence and caution at the same time. Deep down they know the challenge which awaits them.
It’s time we move over the ‘Mauka Mauka’, it’s time we focus on the bigger picture. South Africa possess one of the finest batting line-up, at least on paper, and meanest new-ball combination. And, they won’t field like Pakistan did at the Adelaide Oval.
Enough basking in that glory. Time for a reality check.
Indian batsmen trigger jitters in the opposition bowling camps, except for South Africans. Our leading run-getters in all parts of the world don’t have much to brag about against the Proteas. All of them, yes all of them, average in the disappointing 20s. Virat Kohli is the only exception with an average of 34.40, that too much lower than his career average of 51.95. The dip is not only confined to the number of runs every game, it is reflected in the strike-rate too.
This is one area where India need to direct all their energies. South Africa are an opposition which can bat you out of the game. The seamers and spinners need to be on the top of their game to contain the free-flowing South Africans, who have feasted on Indian bowlers ever since their comeback to competitive cricket. Ashwin, our premier spinner, silenced critics against Pakistan but his record against South Africa makes for an awful read. He averages 216 – bowling average – and goes at over five every over.
What about the seamers? Well, it’s advised to not think about that. Economy rates — if you can all it that in this case — in the highers sevens, strike rates in the 50s, and we are expecting to break the jinx?
The trump card: Not Kohli, not Dhawan. Our trump card against South Africa will be the very handy Ravindra Jadeja. The all-rounder has had a very on-off stint Down Under, but his numbers against South Africa are very impressive. A bowling average of 36.62 and economy rate of 4.73 makes him our pick of the lot. His flatter trajectory, and impeccable control make him a tough customer to score runs off.