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3rd Test: What should India do to win at Johannesburg?

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India vs. South Africa – What to look forward to in the Third Test?

We had suggested how India could spring a surprise on South Africa by sending Rohit Sharma and Parthiv Patel (both of whom have opened in ODIs) to open in the second innings and take the bowling by the scruff of the neck… Well, that did not happen and India did end up losing rather tamely.

On to the third test

Now the series is lost and the Saffers are itching for a whitewash, similar to the one they suffered at the hands of India when they toured last. Technically, they lost 3-0 to India in a 4-match series but the test in Bengaluru was washed out after the first day and chances were that they would have lost that one too.

We can expect South Africa to dish out more of the same – a four-pronged pace attack, add another batsman to shore up their batting further and leave out the lone spinner Keshav Maharaj. If need be, Dean Elgar can turn his arm over.

What should India do?

All of the pacers from SA are right-handed, so India need not have hang-ups about wanting to have a left hander in their line-up. If I were to select the XI, this is what I would do:

  • Dinesh Karthik is a better batsman than Parthiv Patel and perhaps a better wicket keeper as well. That is one change.
  • Ensure Murli Vijay, Chetheshwar Pujara and Mohammad Shami are fully fit. By this, I mean they should not have even small niggles. Otherwise they can be rested.
  • The ball will swing at Jo’burg. Bhuvaneshwar Kumar must play – at whose expense? My guess is Shami has not fully recovered from whatever it is that he is suffering from, which the Team Management does not seem to want to reveal. If Shami is fit, then either Bumrah or Ishant will have to make way.
  • Rahane needs to come in and I am reasonably sure that it will be at the expense of one of Rohit Sharma or Chetheshwar Pujara.

Whichever XI that shows up at the ground has to put a price on their wicket and back themselves to convert even half chances into catches, because catches win matches. The ball will travel far and high so outfielders must stay alert. Even a draw would be a good outcome – at least it will prove that the team did finally acclimatised itself to the conditions in South Africa.

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