A terrific home record and a season full of success with the bat - Virat Kohli can hardly keep a foot wrong after a fabulous 2017 but can he help India shed away their tag of poor travellers in the series of away tours lined up beginning with the trip to the rainbow nation?
The top two teams in the world will compete in the three-Test series between 5th and 28th January in Cape Town, Centurion and Johannesburg and it is expected to be an action filled one month with a lot of talks on how the star-studded Indian batting will compete against the South African pacers in their own backward.
Dale Steyn and AB de Villiers are back in their white jerseys after missing more than a year of action due to different reasons. De Villiers - their premier batsman wanted to focus on the limited overs cricket in order to propel himself to the 2019 World Cup but has eventually decided to return back to the Test side in the four-day game against Zimbabwe while Dale Steyn has recovered from a fractured shoulder that he sustained during the series in Australia. With the likes of Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Vernon Philander and Kagiso Rabada in the rankings, the Proteas post a formidable bowling attack even without Steyn while Keshav Maharah has been a handy performer and will don the spin role.
What will be more encouraging for the Proteas will be they are yet to lose a series against India at home since their readmission. Since then they registered 1-0 (1992), 2-0 (1996), 1-0 (2001), 2-1 (2006), 1-1 (2010) and 1-0 (2013) results against India. In fact overall, India have managed just two wins in their 17 games in South Africa which is their second lowest success rate in a visiting country.
However, if any team that can create history in South Africa, it will be the current side, who will be brimming with confidence after a successful 2017 season. Kohli and head coach Ravi Shastri earlier said that their performance in South Africa will define their character for the rest of the season but they got to do it without any warm-up game.
A tight series against Sri Lanka from the scheduling point of view meant India just had few days to acclimatize to the conditions and the team management turned down the offer from Cricket South Africa on a warm-up game but instead decided to focus on individual training sessions.
It will be tough for India to retain the two spin combination and they will have to take a hard decision of dropping either Ravindra Jadeja or Ravichandran Ashwin for the extra pace bowler. The fact that Jadeja is suffering from a viral fever ahead of the first Test will ease out Kohli's decision making and considering a fair amount of left-handers in South Africa line-up, they might very well go with Ashwin while Mohammad Shami, Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma and debutant Jasprit Bumrah will compete for three spots between them.
Recent form: (10 Tests)
India: D, W, D, W, W, W, W, D, W, L
South Africa: W, W, W, L, L, W, L, D, W, D
South Africa: Faf du Plessis(captain), Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock, Theunis de Bruyn, AB de Villiers, Dean Elgar, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Andile Phehlukwayo, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn
India: Virat Kohli(captain), Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Lokesh Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Hardik Pandya, Wriddhiman Saha, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Parthiv Patel, Jasprit Bumrah
"You are obviously playing at Newlands and you probably are going to (be) nicked off more times then being bounced off. But look, there is a bit of grass on it and everybody is talking about having a bit of pace on it," Vernon Philander warns India about the conditions in Newlands.
"We were trying to prepare a few things even in India before we came here. We had plenty of time to prepare," Cheteshwar Pujara is confident of India's preparations.
Our Verdict: The first Test will always be the key in a three-game series and if India fail to adapt to the tough conditions in South Africa without much match practice, then they are likely to play the chasing game.The latest South Africa vs India betting preview will give all the betting tips and odds on the outcome of the series. Our prediction is a series win for South Africa 2-0. India will struggle in the first Test, with little acclimatization and preparation time. Some big scores from Virat Kholi will keep them in the game but South African bowlers will be too strong for India.
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