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South Africa vs India: Five Indian and SA players to watch out for in Freedom series Tests

Here is a look A look at top five players from Indian cricket team and South Africa cricket team who could change the course in the Freedom series Test matches.

cricket Updated: Jan 04, 2018 22:14 IST
HT Correspondent
Indian cricket team skipper Virat Kohli would be looking to take control of the series both with his bat and captaincy, to take his Test series winning run to 10 on the trot.
Indian cricket team skipper Virat Kohli would be looking to take control of the series both with his bat and captaincy, to take his Test series winning run to 10 on the trot.(Getty Images)

Indian cricket team and South Africa are ready to battle it out in the three-match Test series beginning in Cape Town on Friday. Both sides have a bunch of star players, who are capable of changing the course of a game on their own.

Here we take a look at the five such performers from each side.

INDIA

Virat Kohli

As expected, Indian cricket team captain and star batsman, Virat Kohli, is going to be the central attraction during the three-match series. Fresh from his much-talked-about wedding with Bollywood actor Anushka Sharma, Kohli would look to continue his purple patch in international cricket. The bounce of African pitches is conducive for stroke-play and Kohli will relish playing on them.

As a captain, the series is of paramount importance for Kohli as India have never won a Test series in the Rainbow Nation. Though he has already established his captaincy credentials by winning nine Test series on the trot, winning a series in South Africa would put him in the league of India’s best captains.

Kohli in Tests: M- 63, I- 106, R- 5268, A- 53.75, 50- 15, 100-20, HS- 243

Cheteshwar Pujara

Cheteshwar Pujara is India’s most technically sound batsman. He is coming off a very successful 2017 where he was second only to Australian skipper Steven Smith in terms of the number of runs scored in the calendar year. Since most of the Indian middle-order batsmen are stroke makers, Pujara carries the responsibility of steadying one end with his rock-solid defence.

Pujara can bat for long hours and India would require him to tire South African fast bowlers. If he can do that, it would boost India’s chances.

Pujara in Tests: M-54, I- 90, R- 4396, A-52.96, 50- 16, 100-14, HS- 206*

Shikhar Dhawan

Team India head coach Ravi Shastri has already announced that Shikhar Dhawan would be Murali Vijay’s partner in the Test series. Though Vijay has a better technique, Dhawan is the kind of player who could change the course of the match in a single session. Who will forget his whirlwind hundred against Australia on debut in Mohali in 2012-13?

Dhawan likes to see ball coming onto his bat and South African pitches will give him enough opportunities to free his arms. If he can disrupt the rhythm of South African troika of Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander at the top, India would have a great chance of stamping their authority on the hosts. Dhawan, though, would have to mix his aggression with caution as in the past; he has often lost his wicket playing loose shots.

Dhawan in Tests: M-28, I-47, R- 2014, A- 43.78, 50- 5, 100-6, HS- 190

Bhuvneshwar Kumar

Bhuvneshwar Kumar, along with Mohammed Shami, is expected to open the bowling for India. While Shami missed some of India’s matches last season, Bhuvneshwar has performed a key role in India’s Test victories both at home and away. Bhuvi is an exponent of swing and on tracks offering help to seamers, he can wreak havoc. His form is going to be really crucial for India’s chances in the series.

Bhuvneshwar in Tests: M-19, I- 33, W- 53, A- 27.18, 5w-4, BBI- 6/82

Umesh Yadav

Umesh Yadav can be India’s trump card in South Africa. The lanky bowler possesses the ability to bowl fast and get the ball to rise to an awkward height from a good length. Though he didn’t take plenty of wickets in the last season, he performed outstandingly well on Indian pitches that didn’t offer much resistance to him. His spell against Australia in the second innings of the series decider at Dharamsala deserves a special mention.

On a pitch that appeared more suited to Australians considering the good bounce it had, Yadav set up Indian win by blowing away Australian top order in a trice.

Since South African pitches would have plenty of bounce and carry, Yadav can create a lot of trouble for the hosts if he manages to pitch the ball in the right areas. He is one pacer to watch out for in the series.

Umesh in Tests: M-36, I-70, W-99, A-35.90, 5w-1, BBI- 5/53

SOUTH AFRICA

AB de Villiers

AB de Villiers of South Africa cricket team is returning to Test cricket after a 23-month injury layoff. (Getty Images)

Dubbed a 360 degree batsman for his ability to play strokes anywhere on the cricket field, AB de Villiers is to South Africa what Virat Kohli is to India. Though he shares a great friendship with Kohli as the two play together for Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in the Indian Premier League (IPL), once the Test series gets underway, he is expected to come hard at the Indians with the bat.

De Villiers, who was away from Test cricket for 23 months due to a back injury and made a comeback with the four-day Test against Zimbabwe a week ago, would look to get back into his groove and start dominating the world of cricket the way he had done prior to the injury.

De Villiers in Tests: M-107, I-177, R-8127, A-50.47, 50-40, 100-21, HS- 278*

Quinton de Kock

It won’t be an exaggeration to call Quinton de Kock the Adam Gilchrist of the current era. Among all the wicketkeepers playing at the moment, he is probably the best batsman. A swashbuckling batter, De Kock can take the game away from the opposition while batting lower down the order.

He is also a capable stumper and played a key role in South Africa’s Test series win in Australia in 2016. He is known to be merciless against Indian bowling -- five of his 13 ODI hundreds have come against India. He would now look to do the same in the longer version of the game. India need to be careful of him.

De Kock in Tests: M-26, I-41, R-1578, A-43.83, 50-11, 100-3, HS- 129*

Dale Steyn

Dale Steyn of South Africa cricket team. (Getty Images)

When India take on South Africa, all eyes would be on speedster Dale Steyn, who is making a comeback to international cricket after a long lay-off due to injury. Regarded as one of the best fast bowlers to have ever played the game, Steyn is capable of finishing a match in one spell.

Over the years, he has been an architect of many a famous South African win. His bowling was at heart of South Africa’s first Test series win in Australia and England since their readmission to international cricket. He is one of few overseas bowlers, who tasted success in Indian subcontinent too. After all, who could forget his match-defining spell of 7/51 against India in Nagpur in 2010?

It would be interesting to see if he gets back to his best straightaway. If he manages that, Indian batsmen have a lot to worry about.

Steyn in Tests: M-85, I-156, W-417, A-22.30, 5w-26, 10w-5, BBI- 7/51

Kagiso Rabada

Tall and fiery, Kagiso Rabada has made a name for himself in international arena at a young age of 22. He is genuinely quick and can generate a lot of bounce from the wicket. In the absence of Steyn, he formed a lethal combination with Vernon Philander over the last one year. In fact, only Nathan Lyon took more wickets than him in 2017.

Rabada would want to continue his dream run with the ball going ahead in the New Year too. With batsmen from subcontinent not accustomed to playing on bouncy pitches, Rabada would look to bowl short and unsettle Indian batsmen.

Rabada in Tests: M-23, I-41, W-105, A-22.29, 5w-7, BBI-7/112

Keshav Maharaj

Keshav Maharaj, who has roots in India, has played only 14 Tests. But in the last one year he has emerged as South Africa’s leading spinner in Tests. A left arm orthodox bowler, who bowls tight line and length, Maharaj has bowled well even in Australia where visiting spinners have had a long history of struggle. In his debut match at the WACA, he claimed 3/56 that included the wicket of Aussie skipper Steven Smith, besides scoring an unbeaten 41 to help the Proteas win a series Down Under.

Indian batsmen are considered very good players of spin bowling and would certainly look to go after the young tweaker. However, Maharaj has done well so far against top batsmen of the world and he would love to do the same against players from the country of his ancestors.

M-14, I-25, W-56, A-25.03, 5w-3, BBI- 6/40