The Indians have done well in the days leading up to the second Test. Their preparation has been better than that of South Africa, who have had just no match practice under their belt.
It’s been a relaxed time in festive season for both the teams, though cricket seems to occupy much of their mental space, as it should be since the Indians are on the brink of a historic moment.
There are a lot many in this side who only remember too well instances where the team took the lead in a series and yet finished up on the wrong side. In this decade itself, one could cite series in Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, West Indies and Australia where the end was disappointingly different.
Most of these guys would be aware that it was the mental worms which loosened their resolve, rather than technical flaws.
Indians need to guard against the rubbish theory that if they could somehow cling to their lead in Durban, they would be closer to their dream in Cape Town.
Sorry, it wouldn’t work that way. Weather barring, Kingsmead would throw up a winner and it could change the landscape of the series.
India just can’t afford to take their foot off the pedal. They need to plough through the disquiet in the home ranks rather than let them regroup. This intent must show from the first ball.
Also, the Indians have looked for options in Gautam Gambhir and Munaf Patel to fine-tune their team, but there are no clear-cut signals. Wasim Jaffer has much to serve and this is the moment when Indians just can’t take chances with their opening combination. I am thus not inclined to put my hand up for Jaffer at the moment.
Gambhir did what was asked of him in the two-day game which, let’s admit, was primarily a trial for him and Munaf.
The Indians shouldn’t turn their back on the evidence which is compelling for a change in the order. Not one but both ends at the start of the innings have been an issue with the Indians on this tour and it is not the time to let the wound fester.
A surgical intervention, however painful, is the call of the hour.
One thing to forget never is that South Africa are still hurting from the Wanderers and would look to bite back.