Town - The Proteas play
their first Test cricket in nearly eight months when they take on India in
Visakhapatnam on Wednesday.
Given what happened on their tour
there in 2015, when they fell to a 3-0 series loss in the most one-sided series
you are ever likely to see, this three-match series is incredibly
The talk is that the surfaces in
2019 will allow for a more balanced contest between bat and ball than the dust
bowls of 2015 did, but even so the Proteas will know that how they combat the
Indian spinners will be key.
It is the dawn of a new era in
South African cricket and team director Enoch Nkwe, who replaced
outgoing coach Ottis Gibson after this year's failed World Cup campaign, has
the most difficult of tasks first up.
There are new faces in the squad
and in the changeroom, but the Proteas still have a strong core of experience
that they will be leaning on heavily over the next few weeks.
A group of players including new
Bavuma have been in India for some time now with the South
African 'A' side and they should be well acclimatised to the challenging
Make no mistake, the Proteas
enter this series as overwhelming underdogs and if they are to succeed, they
will need big individual performances along the way.
Here, we look at FIVE players
who need to step up for the visitors.
For me, Maharaj is the most
important Protea on this tour. He has been hugely impressive in his Test career
so far, racing to 94 wickets at 28.44. He fell out of favour in
the Gibson era due to South Africa's obsession with fast bowling, but he will
be key whenever the Proteas visit the subcontinent.
Maharaj is coming off a superb stint
in English county cricket, where he took 38 wickets in just 5
matches for Yorkshire at an incredible average of just 18.92.
The reason Maharaj is so highly
rated is that he can operate as both a defensive, holding option and as an
attacking, wicket-taking threat. He will need to do the latter in India, and
this is shaping to be the series where he solidifies his position as a key
member of this side moving forward.
Elgar has been a rock at the top
of the South African order for nearly five years now, but he hasn't quite been
at his best in recent Proteas knocks.
Now 32, Elgar is a key leadership
figure in this side but, more importantly, he needs to score runs at the top of
the order with Aiden Markram.
Elgar's ability to grind it out in
tough situations has been a hallmark of his Test career so far and it is
exactly why he has been such a valuable member of this group for so long. It
doesn't get much tougher than India away, and this is when South Africa need
their bulldog to be at his bullish best.
Bavuma is in the middle of a
massive push from Cricket South Africa (CSA) that has seen him handed the Test
vice-captaincy while he is also being included in the shorter formats.
With 36 Tests to his
name, it is time for Bavuma to step up to the next level in his career.
He still has just one Test
hundred and averages a modest 33.00 in
The good news is that he is one
of the best players of spin bowling in South Africa currently and that he
enters this series in some good form having carded 87* for South Africa
'A' last week in their warm-up against an Indian Presidents XI.
We will have to wait and see what
the balance of the top order will be on Wednesday, but Bavuma may be given the
responsibility of moving higher up the order than his customary No 6
At 29 and tipped for higher
leadership honours in the future, now is Bavuma's time.
There is no doubt that South
Africa's premier fast bowler underperformed at the World Cup, and that was
largely because he arrived at the tournament over-bowled.
Now, with a few months of rest in
him, Rabada will be the main man once more for the Proteas.
Conditions in India are obviously
not the best for fast bowling, but if anyone can get any reward out of those
surfaces, it is Rabada.
South Africa desperately need him
to reach the heights that made him on the world's most feared and respected
Hopefully, his conditioning is
where it needs to be, because long spells in the Indian heat that often go
unrewarded can be testing.
5. Faf du
It's a big tour for the South
African skipper, who will have needed time away from the game to get over the
bitter disappointment of that horrific World Cup.
important than his performance with the bat is how he pulls this group of
is a crucial time for South African cricket as the national side looks to regain
the trust of their passionate supporters.
is a lot of concern surrounding the future of cricket in the country with the
CSA leadership having completely overhauled its internal structures while Nkwe
is untested at international level.
Plessis can be a calming influence during this period of uncertainty, and if he
is able to steer the ship towards something resembling safety on this Indian
tour, then the future might not be all doom and gloom.
Pics from Gallo
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