'Not just Bumrah, Shami or Siraj': Sreesanth names India's X-factor to help break three-decade duck in South Africa
India's upcoming tour of South Africa will end with two Test matches.
India's first overseas assignment after the 2023 World Cup is their upcoming tour of South Africa. The tour will start with a three-match T20I series, followed by an ODI series of as many games and then end with a two-match Test series. While there are a lot of eyes on the T20I series as it is part of the build up to the T20 World Cup in the West Indies next year, fans are also quite excited about the Tests, which are India's first in the longest format since their two-match series in the West Indies in July this year.
South Africa have been a particularly difficult side to face at their home for India in Test cricket. While they managed to beat Australia twice away from home and draw a Test series in England in the last six years, India have not been able to get past the Proteas in this period. They lost a thriller of a three-match series 2-1 in 2018 and another three-match series 2-1 in 2021/22, which was Virat Kohli's last as India's Test captain.
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This means that amongst India's target on their tour of South Africa would be to record their first ever Test series win against them at their home. Former India fast bowler S Sreesanth feels that India are best placed to win the series this time around as most players in their squad have hit very good form in recent months. “I think this is the best opportunity. Since the time South Africa came back into the international scene, this time we do have a great opportunity and a great chance to win a series there which is like a dream come true," Sreesanth is quoted as saying by Firstpost.
“I would love to see India winning the Test series. It will be like winning the World Cup because winning against South Africa in South Africa is not going to be easy."
Sreesanth says that the fact that there could be a lot of Indians in the stands will help but the gap between the quality of the two fast bowling attacks has come down drastically in recent years. India will have a fit-again Jasprit Bumrah firing on all cylinders while Mohammed Shami hit a sensational purple patch during the World Cup. Mohammed Siraj has always been formidable in Test cricket regardless of his form in the other formats and the fact that pitches in South Africa have traditionally helped pacers will only make him more lethal. Apart from these three, there is also Prasidh Krishna waiting in the wings and a number of other bowlers who are not part of the squad but could be called up and can be trusted to perform.
"The conditions there man. It’s not going to be that easy, but their fast bowers we saw during the World Cup also, they’ve got some very good pace attack as well," said Sreesanth, who played 27 Tests for India and took 87 wickets. He was most succesfull against South Africa, having played nine Tests against the Proteas between 2006 and 2011 and taken 31 wickets.
“But then Indian team, it’s not just Bumrah, it’s not just Shami, it’s not just Siraj. We have lots of bowlers who are waiting in the wings. Even our India A squad is doing extremely well. I’m very confident that this is the series where India is going to win in South Africa,” Sreesanth, who was part of two South Africa tours, added.
Virat Kohli and KL Rahul the X-factors
Sreesanth said that while the bowlers are going to be important, Kohli will be India's x-factor. The former India captain seems to have returned to his best, having broken the record for most runs in a single edition of the World Cup in the recently-concluded 2023 edition. He had also scored a century in India's last Test match against the West Indies in July.
“Virat loves to keep proving, rather than to anybody but to himself. I think he’s that cricketer who actually plays with that pride and he takes that pride in a very good way, not in an egoistic way. So pride for me, and for Virat also I’m sure it’s like personal responsibility in delivering excellence. So, I will go with Virat and KL Rahul,” Sreesanth added.
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