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Dhawan and Vijay hungry but untested abroad

Fragile mind, poor technique and exaggerated reputation built on the comfort of home are the discussions stalking India in their tour of South Africa.

india Updated: Dec 16, 2013 09:50 IST
Khurram Habib
Khurram Habib
Hindustan Times

Fragile mind, poor technique and exaggerated reputation built on the comfort of home are the discussions stalking India in their tour of South Africa. You speak to any former South Africa cricketer or expert and he'll point to the head. The man on the street, at a restaurant or one driving a taxi is also aware of the problems of pace and bounce India are facing.

In fact, Dale Steyn already believes he has left a few of the India batsmen scared, and is geared up to dent some more reputations.

In that context, Sunday was a welcome break for the Indians, who relaxed with no nets or short-pitched stuff to prepare against.

Over the past two days, the nets in Benoni at least ensured that the Indian bowlers were forced to copy Steyn and Morne Morkel's lengths, line and speed to try and give their batsmen some feel of the things everyone is expecting. Considering the flak the bowlers have been receiving, this experience may end up proving to be a great exercise if they carry on with these lengths into the match.

Problems first up
When some of India's top-order batsmen visited South Africa a couple of months back with India A, they got tons of runs. Shikhar Dhawan managed a double century and then he was rested while Cheteshwar Pujara was asked to open in the next game and he too joined the run riot. The tracks and the bowling attack seemed to be to their liking then, and before this tour, those knocks were revisited quite frequently while describing India's chances.

Things though look different now. And the biggest concern for the Indian batsmen as of now are the first 20 overs, where Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel will handle the Kookaburra ball and probably make it swerve and bounce on the Wanderers track.

No wonder the openers have been practicing hard to leave the ball. Shikhar, who likes to go after the bowling, may have to change his style and that was evident in the nets.

Murali Vijay, who'll open with Shikhar, says, "I am just practicing on leaving the ball because taking out the new ball is going to be crucial thing here."

Pujara, on whom a lot of hope rests, will be the ballast at No. 3, and thanks to him being sanitised from the limited overs format, is likely to be a safer bet. He is confident because, as he explains simply, "that is what I do while facing the new ball in India".

He adds that the new ball will matter. "Once you get over that phase, it is easier to bat and score."

Uncertain order
While the top two are inexperienced yet, India's problems are compounded in the middle. Over the last 25 years, Sachin Tendulkar held fort at No. 4. Now with him retired, the choice is between Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma. The issue of who to put in there is being debated in all corners with former cricketers having divergent views. But the uncertainty isn't helping India.

Both the batsmen were scoring runs in India in ODIs and T20 but their style of batting, playing through the line, has come up short here. But whoever bats there, will need some help from the top three.

First Published: Dec 16, 2013 00:10 IST