After halting South Africa's unbeaten away run, India will be looking to move up the ICC Test rankings by winning the last Test in Delhi.
India's Ajinkya Rahane is bowled on Day One of the third Test vs South Africa in Nagpur last week. Pic/AFP
Currently India is placed at No 4 but if they manage to beat South Africa 3-0 in this series, they'll jump to the second spot, and that makes this otherwise 'dead rubber' an interesting contest. On the other hand, this is South Africa's final opportunity to show why they are ranked No 1 in the rankings, for thus far their performance in the longest format is less than satisfactory.
Besides the result, the last Test will also be viewed closely for personal performances. So far, not a single century has been scored in nine innings and if the four innings in Delhi doesn't produce one either, it'll be the first ever Test series in the history of Indian cricket in which not a single century was scored.
And if the Indian team director gets the pitch that he's advocating for, it might just happen too. He's not only slammed the critics of the Nagpur pitch but also has called for more such pitches for home Tests.
Also, Delhi has a history of dishing out extreme pitches, for the last Test match in Delhi (against Australia in 2013) got over inside three days. Another three-day Test might be in the offing.
Batting under scrutiny
The pitches in Mohali and Nagpur received more flak because even the Indian batsmen failed to score, for that gave critics teeth. If one of the teams manages to bat decently, the focus is on the technique of those who failed. But if both teams fail, the focus shifts to the quality of the surface. Both Mohali and Nagpur were tough pitches to bat but they weren't so poor that the best score in this series is 215.
Indian batting not only against spin but also pace has been below par and that should worry the team management. This is a young and promising Test batting line-up but it's the numbers that will eventually judge them, and that's where some of their shot selections have come under the scanner. Rahane in both innings of the third Test and Kohli in the second innings are prime examples of poor selection and execution.
While Ashwin and Jadeja have managed to spin a web, Mishra has only managed to take a handful of wickets. What works in Mishra's favour is that he's taken big wickets of De Villiers and Amla but, unfortunately, that will be forgotten quickly, for it's only the numbers that we remember after six months.
Fill your bag with wkts
These are tailor-made, spinning pitches and hence you must fill your bag with wickets here and save some for the rainy days. It's not often you play on pitches that suit your skill-set so much and it's imperative to make the most of it. In any case, the race amongst spinners is to become the second best in the country, for only two spinners can travel with the team overseas. Ashwin, without doubt, has booked the first spot.
Mishra has looked too eager to take wickets in this series and that's why he's compromised on consistency. He needs to take a leaf out of Ashwin's book and become more patient. As for the result, I'm going with India winning the last Test, taking the series 3-0 and climbing up to the second spot.
Aakash Chopra is a former India Test opener