The Indian cricket team has started its training sessions after arriving in South Africa for South Africa vs India 2021-22 three-match Test series. The first Test will be held on Boxing Day (December 26) as India aim to get off to a strong start and gain impetus in a nation where they haven’t enjoyed much success.
The Virat Kohli-led side is without Rohit Sharma, who was recently ruled out due to an injury. Shubman Gill, Axar Patel, and Ravindra Jadeja are also out, as they are undergoing respective injuries. The Proteas will want to excel at home and test India’s resolve, who have done well in their last two tours of Australia and England, respectively. South Africa have named a 21-man squad, and there are plenty of new faces around. Ahead of an intense contest between bat and ball, lets have a look at the top six player battles that can impact South Africa vs India 2021-22 series.
1. Kagiso Rabada vs KL Rahul
KL Rahul will lead the Indian batting unit upfront alongside Mayank Agarwal. In Rohit’s absence, the prolific Rahul has been named as India’s vice-captain. Rahul, who missed the Test series against New Zealand recently, had a good outing in England after making a return to the scheme of things in Tests. He racked up 315 runs in four Test matches, hitting one century and a fifty. Rahul will bank on that show and aim to be watchful. He will be duly tested by Kagiso Rabada, who is South Africa’s leading candidate with the ball. Rahul, who has worked on his technique and stance, will need to be wary of the threat Rabada possesses. Rabada has pace and variations up his sleeves and will negotiate in the off-stump line to tempt Rahul. Rabada has 213 Test scalps under his belt.
2. Jasprit Bumrah vs Dean Elgar
Indian pacer Jasprit Bumrah will be keen to replicate his strong set of performances away from home in Tests. The right-arm pacer Out of his 101 Test wickets, Bumrah has taken 97 away from home. In the previous tour of SA, Bumrah claimed 14 scalps from three Tests at 25.21. He has also taken 32 wickets each in England and Australia, respectively. The extra bounce and carry will help Bumrah. He will want to pick up early wickets, and Dean Elgar is someone Bumrah will target. Elgar is an experienced customer, and his presence is immense for SA at the top. Elgar has 4,347 runs in Tests. In the 2018 series, Elgar faced 132 balls by Bumrah, scoring 57 runs. He wasn’t dismissed once.
3. Mohammed Shami vs Quinton de Kock
India’s premier pacer Mohammed Shami has the knack of taking wickets, and the side will depend on him for the crucial breakthroughs. Shami will maximize what the surfaces offer and aim to produce swing and test batters with his outswingers. His battle against Quinton de Kock will be crucial. De Kock is South Africa’s main asset and has a good record at home. He can play substantial knocks and hammer the big runs. Overall in Tests, De Kock has faced 49 deliveries bowled by Shami, scoring 41 runs. He has been out twice. He has smashed eight fours as well. Shami has taken 195 Test scalps so far, whereas De Kock has amassed 3,245 runs.
4. Ishant Sharma vs Aiden Markram
Veteran Indian pacer Ishant Sharma will be a strong customer with his menacing line and length. His consistency is what makes him stand out. Ishant has over 300 Test scalps, and he will be eager to use his experience against the Proteas. His battle against Aiden Markram will be immense. Markram has managed 16 runs from 34 balls by Ishant in Tests, being dismissed once. Markram has 1,824 runs in Tests and will look to be patient while approaching his innings. He has a crucial responsibility in front of him, and trumping Ishant will be his target.
5. Anrich Nortje vs Cheteshwar Pujara
South African fast bowler Anrich Nortje will be a difficult customer to handle on the pacy and bouncy surfaces in South Africa. His pace can unsettle the best. Nortje has many variations, including the short balls, and Cheteshwar Pujara is someone he will want to test severely. Pujara hasn’t done well of late and is struggling to find momentum. Often, he gets rooted to the crease and tends to poke at balls to the slip region. Nortje, with his potent line and length, will want to force Pujara into making mistakes. Notably, Pujara has managed seven runs from 29 balls from Nortje in Tests without being dismissed. He has scored 6,589 runs as Nortje has claimed 47 scalps so far.
6. Virat Kohli vs Keshav Maharaj
We all know Virat Kohli has a weakness against the spin of late, as the numbers suggest. Kohli has also not quite been in the best of form and is yet to score a ton since November 2019. Left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj will aim to unsettle Kohli. Maharaj has done well of late and can deceive the best batters, and getting Kohli is what the target will be. Kohli has enjoyed facing Maharaj. He has racked up 116 runs from 134 balls, dominating the show against Maharaj. If Kohli settles in, he can look positive against Maharaj and pile up crucial runs.