‘Fit’ Kohli returns to lead India in the decisive third Test against South Africa
Over five days, you have to put your body on the line, occasionally in explosive bursts, but at other times it is a test of stamina and endurance.
Test cricket is five days in which months of preparation and years of sacrifice and training are put on the line, often with no second chances.
But, for some people, there is only one thing harder than playing a Test match: it’s not playing one.
Virat Kohli is one such person. Over the years he has become such an integral part of the Indian team. He is not only the engine room of the batting, he is the leader that drives the team forward through sheer force of personality and will.
You may not always agree with Kohli’s decisions as captain, either when it comes to selection or his on-field tactics, but you cannot doubt that this man, more than anyone else has a burning hunger to win.
It is this hunger that India will turn to when the third Test begins at Newlands, with a chance to make history still on the line.
This has already been an unusual series in that India came into it favourites, breached South Africa’s fortress in Centurion and then conceded their stronghold at the Wanderers. It could be 3-0, most thought before the team began, and it should be 3-0, was the consensus after the 113-win in the first Test.
But, South Africa refused to roll over and play dead. And, while this might not have been the greatest news for India’s fans, who believe their team should win every time they step out onto the park, it is exhilarating for lovers of Test cricket.
The hard-fought win in Johannesburg means that South Africa go into the third Test with renewed self-belief at a ground in which they have never lost to India.
What this also means is that India will have to earn their victory, rather than just claim it from a team with a fragile batting order and a bowling attack that was undercooked, as was the case in the first Test. This means that India’s first Test series in South Africa will mean something if it does eventually happen.
Kohli’s return means that Hanuma Vihari would miss out — unless, of course, one of the other batsmen picked up a niggle as India had a centre-wicket practice in Newlands on match even, on a pitch adjacent to the one that will be used for the Test.
In the bowling department, there was one change, with Mohammad Siraj not recovering fully from his hamstring injury. At the end of the last Test match Rahul Dravid, the head coach, spoke about how the extra height of South Africa’s fast bowlers gave them an edge. Add to this the fact that the Newlands pitch was unlikely to be as helpful to the quicks as the surfaces of the past two matches, and Ishant Sharma becomes a favourite to come into the eleven. Ishant has the experience and control, the ability to bowl dry overs.
There will be the temptation to consider the extra pace of Umesh Yadav, but, on match eve there appeared to be enough grass on the pitch to rule out early reverse swing.
For South Africa, there was no need to tinker. Dean Elgar was set to play an unchanged team, hoping that the rocket he sent the way of Kagiso Rabada before the second Test still had the desired effect in the fast bowler’s 50th game.
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