After the limited-overs flavour, the high-profile series between India and South Africa now heads towards its business end as the two sides are set to lock horns in the five-day format.
Proteas haven’t put a foot wrong thus far in their Indian sojourn as they pummeled the home team in T20 and ODI formats under the leadership of two inspirational leaders -- Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers.
Saffers are certainly the best team on the road for years as they haven’t lost an away series since 2007. High on confidence after their scintillating performances ahead of the four-match Test series, visitors will look for a clean sweep to mark the tour as their best ever outing, in this part of the world. Notwithstanding, there are a few factors that can give the home team an outside edge over the robust visitors and could make the contest even more enthralling.
Return of Ashwin and Ishant: India’s premier bowler R Ashwin is set to make a comeback after a side strain, which put the offie away from the last four ODIs. Limited-overs skipper MS Dhoni certainly missed his go-to man as no other bowler took the charge of Indian bowling line-up in the absence of the Chennai tweaker. Speedster Ishant Sharma, who played a crucial role in India’s famous series win in Sri Lanka earlier this year, will also be available from the second Test. The way Ishant had performed in the testing conditions of Sri Lanka, the beanpole pacer has signaled that he has come of age and is set to spearhead the Indian bowling attack. Return of Ashwin and Sharma will certainly give the Indian team a much-needed boost and provide the bowling line-up some teeth. Role of spinners is going to be crucial on the turning sub-continent tracks. Combo of leggie Amit Mishra and Ashwin could prove deadly if they manage to hunt in pairs, which they did in Lanka to reap rich benefits.
Return of Ravindra Jadeja: The Saurashtra all-rounder has made a comeback in the Test squad after 14 months. His spectacular performances with bat and ball in the first two matches of the current Ranji Trophy season proved good enough to return to the national fold. The way he created havoc with the ball by bagging 37 wickets in three matches for Saurashtra, might give Kohli the confidence to go with three spinners in the opening Test, scheduled to be played between November 5 to 9 at Mohali. Jadeja must have learnt some vital lessons in last one year or so, a period in which he was completely ignored by the national selectors. Perhaps, the 26-year-old would be itching to perform at the highest level and regain his spot in whites. If included in the playing XI, he would certainly provide some depth to the Indian batting line-up as well.
High on confidence: Virat Kohli & Co would like to carry on with the momentum they gained in last Test tour of Sri Lanka, when they beat the home side at its own backyard. Playing as a unit would be key to success for India against well armed touring side. In the limited-overs battle, Team India failed to put up a team effort, which cost them dearly as they ended up losing in both the formats. Playing with red cherry on turning tracks would give Team India an edge as they have world-class spinners at their disposal. Barring few seniors in the team, vulnerability of Saffers against spin could expose the visiting side on rank turners. On top of it, Indian batting line-up too, looks more robust on these flat tracks, which gives the home team an added advantage.
Revenge on cards: After facing defeats on home soil in limited-overs formats, revenge would certainly be on the minds of Indian players. A loss in Test series could leave India in tatters. And the team management and players are quite aware of this fact. However if we dig deep, it would be safe to say that Indian team looks more settled in Test cricket, at the moment, rather than any other format. They have bowlers who are capable of picking 20 wickets in a Test, at least on sub-continent tracks. As far as their batting line-up is concerned, team India has batsmen like Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli to boast, who are capable of playing big knocks every now and then.