For the first time in several years, the Indian cricket team tours South Africa in the full knowledge that they don’t have the kind of batting experience that Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman provided.
Having been part of the Indian party on the 1996-97, 2001-02, 2006-07 and 2010-11 tours, the trio lent a lot of credibility to India’s batting prowess.
Though their experience could not help India win a Test series in South Africa — an achievement that is still elusive — India have been able to win Test matches in South Africa on the last two tours.
India did well for a 1-1 result in 2010-11 while on the previous tour, they were in a good position to win the series in the first half of the third Test at Cape Town in 2007. Failure to win that Test led to a 1-2 series loss, which was heartbreaking considering Rahul Dravid & Co’s fine show in the opening Test at Johannesburg.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men are not considered favourites to win the forthcoming two-match Test series because the bowling appears weak and there is not enough experience among the batters. However, they cannot be considered no-hopers and their six-in-a-row Test wins, albeit at home, must count for something.
South African supporters will point to their pace strength and India’s perceived weakness on pacy and bouncy tracks. But the fact is that no batsman in the world relishes pace bowling and India’s foibles are often exaggerated. It is a challenge that must be met, but a team that breeds on slow tracks cannot be taken to the cleaners by the experts for not handling pace well.
Amidst the need to perform well, there must be perspective as well and Dhoni, who has been a remarkable leader in both forms of the game, save the tours to England and Australia in 2011, must be given some credit. His side may be young, but they will not fall short when it comes to giving it their best shot against an opposition which has to make up some lost ground in one-day cricket and maintain their superiority in the Test rankings.