During training on Monday, two things got clear. One, Ajinkya Rahane looks a serious bet for a place in the batting order, what with him spending time at the nets and during slip-catching practice at the Wanderers. The other is that Ishant Sharma, whose performance against Australia a month back spawned jokes on social media, is now one of India's most valuable bowlers here.
Ishant had a prolonged spell in the morning at the farthest nets and he worked up some pace and bounce. He is one of the rare positives India took out of the ODI series as he took four wickets for 40 runs in Centurion.
As he plodded on with Zaheer Khan and the others, it was clear he has marked out the length he will target the South Africans with, provided he gets the nod. His Delhi teammate, Virat Kohli, gave the seal of approval by being effusive in praise. While Zaheer will most likely make it on experience, the toss up for the other spots will be between Mohammad Shami, Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ishant.
It is unlikely that the South Africans, who lost here in 2005-06, the last time the two teams faced off at the Wanderers in Tests, will repeat the mistake of leaving grass again. Else, Bhuvneshwar and Shami will come into play. The wicket will have, as Morne Morkel pointed out, "plenty of bounce". That's what brings Ishant into the picture as the lanky paceman's height could work to India's advantage.
No doubt, Dale Steyn had mentioned his Hyderabad Sunrisers teammate as the one to watch out for ahead of the Durban ODI last week. The wicket at the Wanderers is quite similar to that at Centurion and if the weather holds up, it can be dry. The bowler explained his plan of action, "There is a need to use variation on these kinds of wickets."
Ishant mentioned reverse swing too, and it'll be interesting to see how the India bowlers manage it if the wicket and surroundings aren't dry as rain is forecast over the next few days.
Ishant admitted to his mistakes in the ODIs against Australia. "Yes, I went for runs and I take responsibility for it. But everyone should realise that it is sport and mistakes do happen. I analysed my bowling to see where I can improve and I worked on it."
One thing Ishant and other India bowlers will have to be wary of is the margin for error. As Morkel said: "There is little margin for error on this track."