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Updated January 2nd, 2024 at 20:04 IST

India vs South Africa, 2nd Test Preview: Indian bowlers face tall task as Rohit seeks redemption

Rohit Sharma, the leader, will need to channelise the champion tactician that resides in him as India look to restore parity against South Africa and remain consequential in the World Championship points table when the second Test starts here on Wednesday.

Reported by: Press Trust Of India
IND vs SA 2nd Test Team India Playing XI
Team India | Image:PTI
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Rohit Sharma, the leader, will need to channelise the champion tactician that resides in him as India look to restore parity against South Africa and remain consequential in the World Championship points table when the second Test starts here on Wednesday.

India are sixth in the nine-team table with 14 points (38.89 PCT) and a defeat will dent their standing further.

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Ravindra Jadeja, India's "Most Valuable Player" across formats, will come back to add the requisite middle-order batting balance and steady overs with the old Kookaburra but it will be the skipper's choice of third and fourth speed merchants that will define the embattled team's response.

As harsh as it might sound, no one knows more than Rohit that Prasidh Krishna is pretty undercooked to counter the vagaries of Test cricket and Shardul Thakur's bits and pieces talent will not win him much on most days.

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But with three top-order batters, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Shubman Gill and Shreyas Iyer compounding the team's worries with their ineptitude while dealing with the bouncer barrage, Shardul's presence gives the side an assumption of batting depth on paper.

Save KL Rahul in the first innings and Virat Kohli in the second essay, none of the Indian batters could cope with the extra bounce and lateral movement at Centurion.

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With one loss and one draw in three Tests in the new World Test Championship cycle, India would be desperate for a win, which will be easier said than done at the picturesque cricket stadium where the visitors have lost four of their previous six games.

The last six weeks of 2023 haven't exactly been kind to Rohit, who is still trying to pick up the pieces after India's World Cup final defeat.

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That final and Rohit have become a tragic love story, and what has added humiliation to the mix is the two and half day defeat at Centurion in the run up to the New Year. The skipper stood as exposed tactically as his batters and bowlers were found to be inept technically in an innings and 32 run defeat.

There would be no better way to start 2024 than a win at the Newlands ground with the breathtaking Table Mountain adding to the scenic backdrop.

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But South Africa have had an upper hand against India at this venue and Dean Elgar, who would captain South Africa in his last Test appearance wouldn't want that Rohit becomes the second skipper after Mahendra Singh Dhoni to at least draw a Test series in the Rainbow Nation.

The toss will be crucial at Newlands which is recording temperatures of 33 to 34 degrees and despite decent grass covering, the pitch will be a batting paradise with little help for spinners from either side.

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It will therefore not be prudent to retain Ravichandran Ashwin given that Jadeja is fit and available for selection.

However, Rohit's biggest decision as skipper would be whether to rely on his specialist batters and replace Shardul and Prasidh with Mukesh Kumar and Avesh Khan.

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There's no guarantee that the two rookies, with a combined experience of one Test (played by Mukesh), will pull any rabbit out of the hat. But with their solid experience of first-class cricket, their presence might just give the skipper a stronger shot at a win.

Mukesh has bowled extended spells and is certainly more effective compared to Shardul while Avesh could be the proverbial hit-the-deck bowler, who can put the red cherry on hard lengths and extract steep bounce.

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But on a track, which gets better for batting with the passage of time, Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram, Tony de Zorzi, Keegan Petersen, David Bedingham are a formidable force.

To counter them, the new ball overs will be vital. Jasprit Bumrah would pray that there is a suitable cloud cover known as "Table Cloth" over the mountains and he is not as unlucky as he was at Centurion where he beat the bat 26 times in his first spell without much success.

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If the bowlers need to step up, Rohit, the skipper would also need to tell "Rohit the batter" to buck up.

He might be a compulsive hooker and puller of the short ball, but in his heart, Rohit knows that only one career Test hundred in SENA countries in a decade is not a fair reflection of his abilities.

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The peerless Kagiso Rabada has made him his bunny and the Indian captain needs to out-think the legend in the making.

Lungi Ngidi, who also asks probing questions, won't make life any easier for the Indian skipper and his colleagues.

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There would also be the young Nandre Burger to expose the Indian batting line-up's historically fragile technique against left-armers. He would be bowling in and around the rib-cage, occasionally slipping a fuller one across the line.

Virat Kohli looked in imperious form during both innings of the last Test, getting a beauty from Rabada in the first essay and running out of partners en route his 76 in the second innings.

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However, there are plenty of questions for a circumspect Indian team and sooner it gets the answers, the better it will be for its captain. Squads: India: Rohit Sharma (captain), Yashashvi Jaiswal, Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, Avesh Khan, Prasidh Krishna, Ravichandran Ashwin, Kona Bharat, Abhimanyu Easwaran.

South Africa: Dean Elgar (captain), Aiden Markram, Tony de Zorzi, Keegan Petersen, David Bedingham, Kyle Verreynne (wk), Marco Jansen, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Nandre Burger, Keshav Maharaj, Wiaan Mulder, Zubayr Hamza, Tristan Stubbs.

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Match Starts at 1.30pm (IST). 

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Published January 2nd, 2024 at 20:04 IST

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