Time India stamped their supremacy in world cricket

December 15th, 2010 - 7:17 pm ICT by IANS  

Virender Sehwag Centurion, Dec 15 (IANS) Ten months ago, India rallied to tie the two-Test home series against South Africa to stay the World’s No.1 team. Now, they are in a better position to battle it out in a three-Test away series, starting at the Super Sports Park here Thursday.It will be a tough assignment for the Indians as they hung on to the top spot for almost a year playing in familiar conditions, and for the first time they are venturing out of the comfort zone of the sub-continent since the historic victory in New Zealand March last year.

The Indians are no longer vulnerable overseas, having built the reputation of being tough customers in the past decade or so. They are treated with a lot of respect by the opposition.

It is time for Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s boys to shift gears and let the cricket world know that they are formidable enough to win series regularly to be confirmed as the numero uno of Test cricket. There can’t be a better place than South Africa, who are number two in the Test rankings, to stamp their supremacy.

It will be a herculean task though, having won just one of their 12 previous Tests in this country, and notwithstanding the fact that on paper, India are the better balanced and more experienced side.

South Africa have a decent record, having won four of their seven Tests this year, but were given a tough fight at home by England, drawing the four Test series 1-1.

The South Africans have already played their first card, reminding India of their poor track record here, and also the inherent weakness against short stuff. And they sent out a clear warning by threatening to use a green top for Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel to hum the chin music.

But the tough words of South African coach Corrie Van Zyl and captain Graeme Smith have come wrapped in profuse caution that they are not “underestimating” the Indians, thus betraying their own nervousness ahead of the big series.

The response from India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and coach Gary Kirsten was calm and assuredness. They pointed to their success of winning seven of the 12 Tests during the year with just two losses. They flaunted their batting galaxy — Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, V.V.S. Laxman and Dhoni himself. And then there is that new batting hero Harbhajan Singh with back-to-back Test hundreds against New Zealand.

“We do not pay attention to what history says about what happened here in the past. We do not think too much about the statistics,” said Dhoni with an authority with which he has lead the side to the pinnacle of Test cricket.

“We are so used to the question of handling short balls and we will take care of it when we are bombarded with,” Dhoni said.

“Most of our batsmen have recently played quite a lot in South Africa and are much more familiar with conditions than was the case in the past.”

Of all the pre-series talk, Morkel has perhaps struck the right note, saying that Sehwag’s dismissal would be the key for the South African team.

“Sehwag is very dangerous when he goes on the charge upfront, he can be very destructive against the new ball. I am looking forward to the contest,” Morkel said ahead of the first match.

“If we can strike early with the new ball and get their middle order in quickly, then maybe we can bowl India out cheaply. It is obvious you do not want Sehwag to get a flying start and Gautam Gambhir was ranked the top in the world not that long ago.”

South Africa are aware that allowing Sehwag to go about in his carefree style would be suicidal.

The South African batting also has the class of Smith, AB de Villiers, Jacques Kallis, Hashim Amla and JP Duminy.

While the batting will be a vital aspect, it is the bowlers who have to deliver. Zaheer Khan’s hamstring injury is turning out to be a worry for the Indian camp, and if he sits out of the first Test Shantakumaran Sreesanth, who exploded on the international cricket scene on the last tour here in 2006, will have to anchor the attack. Ishant Sharma bowled well against New Zealand and if his performance on the Australian pitches is any indication he should revel in these conditions.

Teams (from):

South Africa: Graeme Smith (captain), Hashim Amla, Johan Botha, Mark Boucher (wicketkeeper), AB de Villiers, Jean-Paul Duminy, Paul Harris, Jacques Kallis, Ryan McLaren, Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Alviro Petersen, Ashwell Prince, Dale Steyn, Lonwabo Tsotsobe.

India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain and wicketkeeper), Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, V.V.S. Laxman, Suresh Raina, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, S. Sreesanth, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Wriddhiman Saha, Umesh Yadav, Jaidev Unadkat, Pragyan Ojha.

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