Virat Kohli, Jasprit Bumrah and Ian Chappell have made bold statements. Faf Du Plessis has been quietly confident. Who will pass this test?
By Francis Adams
As news of South Africa winning the toss and deciding to bat first has poured in, Virat Kohli's Team
|Virat Kohli and Faf du Plessis at the Toss. Pic courtesy: @BCCI|
The Supersport Park in Centurion, venue for the second of the three-match Test series, is 4000 feet above sea level. Such places are called high ground. It is here that India, who have never won a series in South Africa, are aiming to bounce back after the low in Newlands, Cape Town.
Will they be able to?
You, the eternally optimistic Indian cricket fan will confidently say, "Yes, this Indian team have it in them to win, if they play Ajinkya Rahane and KL Rahul."
However, reality bites big. Virendra Sehwag has given India only 30% chance of winning this second Test. The Nawab of Najafgarh's observation may have come owing to his vast experience as a former
|Virendra Sehwag. Pic courtesy: sports.ndtv.com|
Faf du Plessis has very calmly said: "The first priority is to win games. We prepare bowling friendly conditions because we want to win Test matches."
In contrast, none of Kohli's statements have the word "win" in them.
His responses, although positive sounding, have been guarded. "Even after being put under pressure, we are a team that looks to get up and fight back and get back into the game," the Indian skipper told the media.
It is considered normal for visiting team captains to be cautious in their replies and this is where this Test and series may be won and lost.
South Africa is already thinking and talking victory in public. India is reluctant to speak about it until they cross the bridge.
Few statistics also favour South Africa at Centurion.
They scored the highest team total of 620 for 4 declared, here, against India in 2010.
Hashim Amla, who is raring to be among runs after failing in Newlands, has the highest individual innings of 208 to his name at this venue. He scored this double ton against the West Indies in 2014.
Kagiso Rabada, outshined by Vernon Philander in the Cape Town Test, holds the best match bowling figures of 13 for 144 against England in 2016, here at Highveld.
What should inspire Kohli and Team India is:
1. Jasprit Bumrah's statements
2. Ian Chappell's "A fake world championship" article on January 7, 2018 on ESPNCricinfo.com
Bumrah, who made his debut in the first Test in Newlands, Cape Town told sports reporters: "[Team's] Confidence is not dented after one match. If it happens, then you don't deserve to play. Learn from the mistake you made and go forward. There is not a single cricketer who has not made a mistake."
|Jasprit Bumrah during his Test debut in Newlands, Cape Town.|
Pic courtesy: BCCI.TV
These are very strong statements by a player who is only a Test match old. It's an encouraging sign that also speaks well about the team management which is letting youngsters in the team speak to the media so freely.
This wasn't the case previously. Debutants and one-Test match olds were either shielded completely from interacting with the media or coaxed into responding in mono syllables.
On his part, Chappell, after enjoying watching Australia dominate England in the recently concluded The Ashes series, is projecting this ongoing India vs South Africa and the upcoming Australia vs South Africa Tests as the benchmark for deciding which team can claim to be the world's No 1 Test team, not considering the ICC Test rankings.
The ICC Test rankings does not display a team's standing based on merit. India, which is perched at
|Ian Chappell. Pic courtesy: Foxsports.com|
Wikipedia describes "High ground" as an area of elevated terrain, which can be useful in combat, which also means "to fight; to battle."
Five days or, maybe even lesser, from today will provide the answer whether Kohli and Team India meant "victory" when the captain said "We don't give up."