Focus on Indian batsmen in 2nd Test against South Africa
Centurion: India will aim to bounce back after their defeat in the opening Test against South Africa when the second match of the starts at the SuperSport Park here on Saturday with the focus on its batsmen.
The hosts bundled out India for 209 and 135 in the two innings, registering a 72-run victory at Newlands, Cape Town. Though the visiting bowlers thrived on the lively pitch, the technique and approach of the batsmen was questioned as they failed to chase down a target of 208.
India would have suffered more embarrassment if all-rounder Hardik Pandya had not come up with an audacious 93 in the first innings. But such counter-attacking and full-of-risk knock does not not pay off always and captain Virat Kohli and chief coach Ravi Shastri know that.
Bounce, seam and swing were all there to see at Newlands and SuperSport Park is expected to be no less lively. The hosts have not lost at this venue since 2014.
South Africa head coach Otis Gibson has already expressed his desire to stick with a four-pronged pace attack. The hosts went into the Newlands Test with their strongest quartet of seamers -- Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander, Morne Morkel and Kagiso Rabada. Veteran Steyn injured his left heel midway through the match and has been sidelined for four to six weeks.
One of all-rounders Chris Morris and Andile Phehlukwayo is most likely to be included in place of Steyn to strengthen their batting which din't perform on expected lines.
Rookie pacers Duanne Olivier and Lungi Ngidi have been added to the squad and skipper Faf du Plessis may be lured into fielding either of them. Keshav Maharaj will be the lone spinner in the team.
To stand up to the pacers, Indian batsmen have a lot of areas to improve upon. The conditions are far different from that of the sub-continent and India didn't even play a warm-up game prior to the first Test.
Having experienced the conditions in the first Test, the Indian batsmen will be hopeful of giving a better account of themselves.
Some of them played reckless shots -- which would have worked on a slow pitch -- in the first Test and coming into the second game, they would have got a measure of the task ahead.
India's team is full of stroke-makers like Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Hardik Pandya. Their attitude of dominating the bowlers with a flurry of strokes will not work. Instead they must harness the art of controlling the pace quartet. They must curtail their habit of going after the deliveries.
Calls for the inclusion of Ajinkya Rahane, known for his quiet approach, instead of fellow Mumbaikar Rohit Sharma have grown over the few days. It will not be a surprise if one of Dhawan or Rohit sit out, while Karnataka right-hander Lokesh Rahul -- a stroke-maker but with a judicious batting approach -- may find himself in the openers' slot.
Though the less flamboyant ones, Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara also failed, they are trusted to in these conditions, especially the dogged Saurashtra right-hander.
If Kohli wins the toss, opting to bowl will be obvious option. Doing so will not only shield the batsmen from the early onslaught of the hosts' pacemen but also allow the visiting bowlers to run into the opposition with full steam.
Seamers Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Hardik Pandya, alongwith lone spinner Ravichandran Ashwin bundled out the hosts for 130 in the second innings at Newlands.
South Africa will depend upon Dean Elgar, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis to score the bulk of runs.
India: Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (captain), Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Wriddhiman Saha (wicket-keeper), Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Parthiv Patel, Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Hardik Pandya, Lokesh Rahul.
South Africa: Faf du Plessis (Captain), Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Theunis de Bruyn, Quinton de Kock (wicket-keeper), AB de Villiers, Dean Elgar, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Andile Phehlukwayo, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada. Duanne Olivier, Lungi Ngidi.