After winning six consecutive ODI titles in a row, the Indian team is now up for their real test - the South African tour. MS Dhoni and his boys have of late become a force to reckon with in limited-overs cricket, but an overseas tour is always a challenge for India, and South Africa would be no different.
Indian team will be playing Tests in an overseas tour after quite some time. The fans wouldn’t want to recall what happened when the MS Dhoni-led side toured Australia and England in their last two Test series on foreign turf. South Africa will have similar conditions and since most of the Indian batsmen are doing well at the moment, it was very essential to pick a veteran bowler who had the experience of playing under South African conditions. Thus, Zaheer Khan became an obvious choice for Dhoni and the Indian selectors.
And the Mumbaikar had earned his place in the team. After being dropped from the team following a poor show against England when they toured India last year, Zak showed the intent to make a comeback. He not only got his body into a proper shape, but also worked on the length of his deliveries. Despite having not played a Test for the team since December 2012, Zaheer was in the mind of selectors as they would have considered his role when India defeated South Africa in the second Test in 2010 played at Durban.
The 35-year-old had missed the first Test where the Proteas batsmen pulverized Indian bowlers, but he played a significant role in the second, where he claimed six wickets – three each in both the innings – as India won the match by 87 runs. Zaheer continued his good form and picked four wickets in the third match as well which ended in a draw and the series levelled at 1-1.
Zaheer, who has played 88 Tests so far, could also play a pivotal role in mentoring the young Indian pacers. Despite not being a part of the ODI squad, Zaheer’s presence in South Africa would be an added advantage for young pace men.
Of late, while Bhuvneshwar Kumar proved to be India’s best swing bowler in recent times after Irfan Pathan, Mohammad Shami’s rise has been of an added advantage. Shami’s form has also been of extreme help in the last few series since Bhuvneshwar was struggling with his form.
Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Mohammad Shami have shown enough promise and their deliveries could become even more lethal under Zaheer’s guidance.
In the batting department, even though most of the batsmen are in sublime form, it would be for the first time in several decades that an Indian squad would play on foreign turf without the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly. These four batsmen were the team’s disaster-management experts as they often rescued their team from critical circumstances by soaking all the pressure.
An overseas tour is nothing less than an acid Test for an Indian skipper. Dhoni – arguably India’s most successful skipper till date, would be keen to improve the team’s overseas performance under his leadership and South Africa could be the place to start with.