Zee Media Bureau/Chaitan Papnai
Johannesburg: After losing the three-match ODI series against Proteas, India will now play a two-match Test series in South Africa. In the ODIs, India suffered a humiliating 2-0 defeat as their batsmen and bowlers failed to perform on the swift and bouncy tracks of South Africa.
In the longest format of the game, it would be even difficult for the Indian players to hit the ground running against the number one ranked Test team in the world. But in Tests, India have players like Cheteshwar Pujara and Zaheer Khan who might give the team solidity they need.
Zaheer Khan has to play dual role in Tests. One is to spearhead the Indian bowling attack and the other is to guide the comparatively inexperienced fast bowlers. A much-fitter Zaheer can exploit these conditions well with the help of his rich experience. All the eyes would be on the 35-year-old, when he will make his Test comeback -- after almost a year -- in the first match of the series starting from December 18 at Johannesburg.
Zaheer played a significant role in the Test series, when India toured the rainbow nation last time. In the second Test at Durban, he claimed six wickets – three each in both the innings – and India won the match by 87 runs. Zaheer continued his good form and picked four wickets in the next match as well which ended in a draw and the series levelled at 1-1.
The onus to perform at number 3 would be on Cheteshwar Pujara, who has recently won the ICC’s ‘best emerging player’ award. His rock solid technique might help India while facing the deadly bowling attack of Dale Steyn and Co. But it would be a real test of abilities for this 25-year-old Saurashtra player, on tracks where in-form Indian batsmen – Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan -- failed miserably in the ODIs.
It would be interesting to see whether the presence of these two in the team will make a difference or India’s poor run in ODIs will continue in the Tests as well.