South Africa vs India 2018: What strategy should India go for in Cape Town?
After ending a successful and dominant home run, India will take on the Proteas in the first test to be played in Cape Town on 5th of January.
India will look to set the tone straightaway by playing the brand of cricket they played in the last year and a half. But the conditions will be something that will pose a challenge to the visitors without any proper practice game.The think tank will have their work cut out in laying out the strategy.
With 5 pacemen, 2 spinners, 2 keepers, 7 bowler batsmen and 1 genuine all-rounder, India should feel complete. It would be interesting to watch the final eleven for Cape Town.
India should open with Dhawan and Vijay giving them a left-right opening combination, with Pujara at no.3, followed by Kohli, Rahane, Rohit Sharma and Saha at 7. The point of contention is no. 8, where there could be tough competition between Pandya, Ashwin, and Jadeja.
Traditionally, the Cape Town pitch starts turning from Day 4. India may opt for Jadeja keeping his past success in South Africa than Ashwin. Shami and Ishant might open the bowling and Bhuvneshwar Kumar will come in as a changeup. This team certainly has the capability to take 20 wickets in conditions outside of Asia.
Ishant Sharma looks a far improved bowler now, having got his pace back. It will be different though with the Kookaburra ball as it grips differently.
This is where early adaptability is crucial. In their previous tour, Pujara got a well constructed 153 and Virat scored a fighting 117 tackling the pace of Steyn and Co in Johannesburg.
Murali Vijay needs to continue his batting form and bring his versatility to the fore. Dhawan must seek to up his batting average of just 19 in SouthAfrica, as this is an injustice to his talent. Though Virat is India's premier batsman, I have a feeling that Rahane, with his excellent overseas batting average of 53.44, will play a vital role. If Virat opts to play Hardik Pandya, tasking him to balance the position at 7, it provides the side an additional batsman.
The other area of concern for India is its slip catching. When playing in South Africa, England, and Australia, you need to seal the slips as there will be plenty coming that way. With AB de Villiers back in the side, it looks a strong batting side, with depth right until No.10.
If India wins the toss, I think Kohli will choose to bat as he did the last time. If that happens, the openers will have to ensure safety for the side by not losing a single wicket inside the first session.
With an incredible strike rate of 41.45 and an average of 22.30, Dale Steyn will be itching to bowl and aim the ribs of the Indian batsmen. The pace of Rabada, the accuracy of Philander and the enigma of Morkel is something Indian batsmen will have to counter with.
India has won just 2 Tests in South Africa, and would look for a better result this time around.