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25 January, 2018

Last chance for India's non-performing batsmen

Day One, 3rd Test: Do Team India have brilliant strategies up their sleeves to shock SA into submission on Pujara's birthday

By Francis Adams

Today, January 25, is Cheteshwar Pujara's birthday. He has turned 30 years, 0 days.
Cheteshwar Pujara received mixed reactions to his slow innings. Pic courtesy: BCCI.tv

Yesterday, he scored the slowest of Test match half centuries (50 from 179 balls), that earned him scorn, criticism, memes, rebukes, from the trolls and praise from lovers of Test cricket.

Pujara's birthday gift, a day in advance.

"This is one of the toughest pitches I've played on," said Pujara in response to Shaun Pollock's query about describing how was it batting on the Wanderers pitch on Day One of the third Test.

The Rajkot boy's sentiment was backed in a more desperate tone by former India captain Saurav Ganguly, who let out his anger through his tweet: "To play test cricket on this surface is unfair ...saw it in NZ in 2003 ...batsman have a minimum chance ...ICC should look into it."

Whether the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), in consultation with Ravi Shastri, Kohli and others concerned take up this matter officially with the ICC is for the future.

At this moment, India have pride to defend and the claim that they will not complain about any pitch they are made to play on because in Shastri's words,"There are two teams playing on that pitch." This translates to: You are as good as, or better than, the other team in skills and strategy to win the Test, leave aside the conditions.

What is India aiming for?

With 187 on the board and already a South African wicket in the bag on the first day, Team India feel they have a bright chance of turning this Test their way.

"We had to work hard to score runs, but the total we have, I think it is as good as scoring 300 on any wicket. As we saw, we got a wicket, and if we bowl well, I think we'll get them out. I would say it was a good day for us," was how Pujara summed up the status of this Test, thus far.

AB de Villiers has been the thorn in India's progress.
Pic courtesy: Indiatimes.com
We fans do not know whether Pujara's analysis is shared by his captain Kohli and coach Shastri as these two did not speak with the press after the day's play.

The reality is: If India have worked on developing special strategies to price out South African wickets, they should be ready with super special strategy and implementation to see the back of AB de Villiers.

He is the only thorn in India's progress. de Villiers as we all cricket lovers know can dominate any bowling attack on any surface, barring a few hiccups.

His innings, even if it is a cameo is so effective that it is likely to rub off on most of his teammates, also inspiring tailenders Vernon Philander, Lungi Ngidi and Andile Phehlukwayo to put useful runs on the board. He set the tone for Kagiso Rabada and Keshav Maharaj in previous innings.

There are several reports in the media that suggest that this Test will decide the future of few of India's batsmen, such as, Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane.

There is also talk of how Kohli's arrogance is good for his individual game and stature but not helpful to the team.

Team India's quest to conquer the Foreign Frontier has just begun. These talks and such reports don't convey a positive and happy scenario about world cricket's No 1 Test team.

Team India needs more batsmen to support Kohli. This Test is their last chance.
Pic courtesy: BCCI.tv
Today, January 25, the second day of the third Test at Johannesburg is, hence, the D-Day for Team India. If they strategize well, utilizing their bowlers intelligently from both ends and manage to
curtail South Africa's chase within 150 runs, they'll be able to smell victory.

Then, again, we fans can only hope that, for one last time, batsmen other than Kohli and Pujara will stand up and take ownership in their last innings in this three-Test series.

They owe one big score so that their bowlers have enough runs to put South Africa under pressure, go for the kill and salvage some pride.

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