Several Indian teams have travelled to South Africa since 1992-93. Not one has managed a Test series win. But no one has been whitewashed either. The current Indian team, ranked No. 1 in the world in Tests, is staring at the real possibility of becoming the first ever Indian team to achieve that humiliating feat. Having already lost the series 0-2, Team India begins the third and final Test in Johannesburg against South Africa amidst a lot of apprehension and uncertainty. We still don’t know if Virat Kohli’s men would be able to fight it out and survive the might of the South African unit.
If there is one thing that the visitors can find solace from is the fact that India has never lost a Test at the Wanderers. In fact, 'The Bullring' has some very happy memories for Indian cricket. This is where India achieved their first Test win in South Africa and this is where they won the famous World T20 final back in 2007.
Can India find some inspiration from those happy memories and salvage a win in the final Test? Can they finally give something to their devoted fans to cheer about in this rather disappointing series? We shall know soon.
In hindsight, the result of this Test series would have been different had India done a lot of things right in the first two Tests. Had they elected Ajinkya Rahane, their best overseas batsman; had they not dropped Bhuvneshwar Kumar, their best bowler in the first Test, had they not dropped so many catches, had they not given so many runs with the ball in the first innings of the first Test, and had they batted with more authority, things surely could have been different. India has only got themselves to blame for the opportunities lost and the lack of intent they showed.
For India, the series is gone now but there is pride still at stake. South Africa would be determined to inflict India with another embarrassing loss to avenge their 0-3 series loss to India in 2015. India would have to do a lot of things right to make sure that do not follow the same pattern of the first two Tests.
Led by the fiery Virat Kohli, Team India does have a lot of potential. It is all about sticking to the basics and doing the little things right. While they have fought and had the upper hand in both the Tests, India has lost out on key moments that resulted in their downfall. They would have to make sure that they don’t commit to silly mistakes and are disciplined throughout.
There has been too much dependency on Virat Kohli, the batsman, to bail the team out every time. The likes of Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma would have to display a lot more gumption. The bowlers have been doing a fine job and the pace, bounce and movement at Johannesburg should assist them enough to trouble the South African batsmen.
There have been some speculations that Ajinkya Rahane might finally get a game and that Bhuvneshwar Kumar might make a return in this Test. If that is to happen it will certainly bolster India’s chances.
All eyes would now be on Virat Kohli. He has come in for a lot of criticisms for his team selections and the onus would be on him to lead from the front and ensure that India is able to save face in the third and final Test. Because a 0-3 loss here would really tarnish the No. 1 Test team’s reputation globally and that is something Team India can ill afford at the moment.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)