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Time to reverse the trend in SA for Dravid’s men

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The Afrikan Safari is just about to begin for Rahul Dravid’s men. The New Wanderers in Johannesburg will be their first test of the 54-day long tour. The Indian team will face one of its most difficult tasks as they have realized how different the wicket conditions are in South Africa. They have already learnt a lesson in Benoni in the warm-up One Dayer against Rest of South Africa on how tough it would be against the pace and the bounce generated by the Proteas.

Batting has been India’s strength but somehow the middle order hasn’t been coming good in the recent times. Our chances in the game do depend on how Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag fire up at the top of the order. It is always good to see Rahul Dravid in the middle order. He is good at getting the youngsters to rally around him and is one man who stays till the end. Youngsters like Kaif, Raina, Dinesh Mongia and Dhoni have to contribute big sores to take India to a massive total if they do bat first. Unless the team puts up a 250 plus score, there is hardly any chance against a South African side that has always batted deep down the order.

The bowling department looks more matured now with the return of the ace leg spinner Anil Kumble along with Zaheer Khan. The left arm pacer might look to make amends for his match losing efforts with the ball in the World Cup Finals at this same venue three years ago that is. As far as Kumble is concerned, it would be a morale boost to the side as they can expect some key wickets from him in the middle overs that should be crucial. As for me, India should go in with the one spinner in Anil Kumble. Harbhajan Singh might be brought in later depending on how the Proteas handle Kumble. The conditions for today’s match might be overcast as it has been raining in Jo’burg. There should be enough aid for the swing and the seam bowlers.

India’s success in the last three years or so has depended to an extent on Irfan Pathan’s performance with the new ball. Well Pathan has been underperforming for a long time and it is time for him to deliver it now as a lot depends upon him as he can make inroads with the late swing he can get with the new ball. All Pathan has to do is drive confidence from the past performances of his and just go out and enjoy his stint of bowling and batting as he is one of the best all rounders we have in the present lot.

If there is one dimension of the game that we have always lagged behind, then it is fielding. With Yuvraj not in the side, it is very important for Kaif, Raina to field as well as they do and motivate the rest of the nine players to do the same. Everyone has to contribute in this aspect of the game and basically they need to go all out with their efforts. The Indian team needs to live on the examples of the past greats of fielding, the likes of Azhar, Robin Singh, Ajay Jadeja who were so good and lively on the field that batsmen would think twice to take a single off them. These players used to throw themselves on the ball, pounce on anything that looks to be coming towards them in a flash.

I know India has won just the 18 times versus the 30 wins of SA in the 50 games played between the two sides and also the fact that India has won just thrice in 16 matches against South Africa in their home. The time has come to reverse the trend and if Dravid’s boys can come out flying in batting, bowling and fielding, then there is no stopping for the Men in Blue in having the South Africans in a net! It is easier said than done of course and that is why it has been one hell of a task beating the Proteas in their den.

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