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Cricket

Updated on: Wednesday, December 15, 2021, 09:40 PM IST

SA vs IND: No Rohit Sharma, no Ravindra Jadeja, no warm-up games — real 'Test' for Virat Kohli-led India in South Africa

Virat Kohli's side will embark on their tour to South Africa with an aim to register their first Test series win in the Rainbow Nation
India Test captain Virat Kohli (r) and head coach Rahul Dravid share a laugh. | Photo: PTI/Shashank Parade

India Test captain Virat Kohli (r) and head coach Rahul Dravid share a laugh. | Photo: PTI/Shashank Parade

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Virat Kohli lost his ODI captaincy in an unfortunate way. But he leads a formidable Test side, that has been an envy of many.

India have a superior record in Tests not just because of their home dominance — they last lost a series in 2012 — but also because of their series wins away from home. They’ve won their last two Test series in Australia, currently lead the series in England 2-1 and have also put up commendable performances in New Zealand and South Africa. However, the Rainbow Nation is the only place where they are yet to register a Test series win.

In 2018, India lost the series 1-2, winning only the last match in Johannesburg. But Kohli is confident of a “special” show this time when the tour starts with a Boxing Day Test.

“We are very well placed in terms of experience, belief and confidence that this time around we can do something special and get the results that we want as a team and overcome probably the toughest conditions to go and win a series," India’s Test captain said in the pre-departure presser on Wednesday.

"South Africa is one place where we have not won a series yet. So, we are very motivated to do that. And the mindset is always to go there and win a series in any country that we play.”

Captain Kohli will be without the services of opener Rohit Sharma and all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja, both injured. Sharma is the leading run-scorer in Tests for India this year.

“We will miss his (Sharma) abilities a lot. He has proven in England already that he has really worked his Test game out and the opening partnership was very important for us to play the way we did in the series. With his experience and skill, we will miss his qualities," said Kohli in the pre-departure virtual press conference on Wednesday.

"But having said that, I think it's an opportunity for someone like Mayank (Agarwal) and KL (Rahul) to step up and solidify that start that we got in the last series and make sure that the good work is carried on in this series as well.”

Jadeja, on the other hand, has often provided useful runs down the order in the last two years, apart from his left-arm spin. In fact, Jadeja has often been the preferred spinner on overseas tours for the Kohli-led clan.

“Jadeja is a very important player for us, he contributes to all three departments, which is invaluable overseas, and he will be missed,” said Kohli about his team-mate from his U-19 Men’s World Cup winning side.

“That said, we do have the quality in the side to be able to create the best combination possible and still be able to win Test matches, because we've created that bench strength and environment where people coming in are seizing opportunities, grabbing it with both hands, and making sure the team is helped by their performances. As much as we'll miss him, it won't be a deciding factor."

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A common factor in both Australia and England was warm-up matches to get acclimatised to the conditions, something that is not there in the tour to South Africa. How will the team deal with lack of warm-up clashes? “As much as centre-wicket practice as possible, match simulation — those kinds of things really help when you play in conditions that are in my opinion the most challenging, because of the pace and bounce on offer,” Kohli added.

“And the conditions can be tricky with swing as well, we've seen that in South Africa. So as much simulation as we can have, understanding which areas we're hitting the ball, getting into good shapes, with the bowlers as well, with slips set in place, what areas they want to bowl, cut down easy singles, boundary options - all those things help you get into a good space when you have no warm-up games.”

Kohli has an opportunity to continue leading India’s charge in the red-ball format, even as the clamour around his white-ball captaincy continues.

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Published on: Wednesday, December 15, 2021, 09:40 PM IST
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