5 Proteas who need to step up in India

2019-10-01 10:24

Cape 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 daunting. 

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 vice-captain Temba Bavuma have been in India for some time now with the South African 'A' side and they should be well acclimatised to the challenging conditions. 

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. 

1. Keshav Maharaj

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. 

Keshav Maharaj (Gallo)

2. Dean Elgar

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. 

Dean Elgar (Gallo)

3. Temba Bavuma 

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 format.

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 slot. 

At 29 and tipped for higher leadership honours in the future, now is Bavuma's time. 

Temba Bavuma (Gallo)

4. Kagiso Rabada

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 fast bowlers. 

Hopefully, his conditioning is where it needs to be, because long spells in the Indian heat that often go unrewarded can be testing. 

Kagiso Rabada (Getty)

5. Faf du Plessis

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. 

More important than his performance with the bat is how he pulls this group of players together.

This is a crucial time for South African cricket as the national side looks to regain the trust of their passionate supporters.

There 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.

Du 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.

Faf du Plessis (Gallo)

Pics from Gallo

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