The next challenge for the Indian cricket team in World Test Championship is South Africa, a team which is going through a rejuvenation process after a below-par show in the 2019 World Cup. The challenge might look easy for India against the current South African side but the Proteas have a habit of bouncing back quickly after a hammering. Indian skipper Virat Kohli should keep in mind that this series will not be a walk in the park-like they had in the West Indies, where Team India whitewashed the hosts 3-0.
The first Test of the three-match Gandhi-Mandela series will be played on October 2 at Dr. Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy ACA-VDCA Cricket Stadium, Visakhapatnam. Regular skipper Faf du Plessis will resume his captaincy duties for the Proteas after a short break from T20I series. It is going to be a tough challenge for South Africa to beat India in absence of Hashim Amla and Dale Steyn, who announced their retirement recently.
South Africa is one of the few teams which has played well against India in their den, but the golden era of the Proteas is long gone and it's time for the young players to script a new dawn. While, on the other hand, India, who are ranked No.1 in Tests, will look to continue their dominating run in red-ball cricket which commenced in Australia this year.
In the high-voltage series, clashes between the top players are the most common things and in India vs South Africa, we might see a lot of them. Here are the key battles to look forward to during the three-match Test series between the two teams.
1. Virat Kohli vs Kagiso Rabada
It would be fair to say that this battle is going to decide the fate of the series. Kagiso Rabada vs Virat Kohli, it's a battle we are witnessing from quite some time now and it's evident that there is still no clear winner. This might be the series where one can prove their supremacy over the other. Rabada has the raw pace with swinging ability that can easily play with any batsman's mind. While, on the other side is Run Machine Kohli, who has a habit to win challenges and with the technique and mindset he possesses, it will be a hell of a task for Rabada to triumph over him.
2. Rohit Sharma vs Vernon Philander
This series is going to be one of the biggest challenges of Rohit Sharma's career as he is getting a chance to reignite his Test career as an opener and Philander might be the one who will make the job tougher for him. Rohit is an outstanding batsman in the shorter format, maybe one of the best, but in Test cricket, the story is the quite opposite. The 33-year-old started his Test career with a bang by smashing back-to-back Test centuries but suddenly the drop in form put a question mark on his Test career. Meanwhile, Philander has a special quality to swing the ball both ways and he is very lethal with the ball that could put Rohit on backfoot. So, after strigs of poor shows in T20I series and the warm-up game against the Proteas, it's time for Rohit to level up his game before it's too late.
3. Faf du Plessis vs Mohammed Shami
The Proteas captain is back after a brief break from international cricket and he is ready to take his team back to the golden days. Without AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla, the responsibility to hold the innings in the middle becomes double for Faf. On the other hand, India have Mohammed Shami in their arsenal, who is famous for breaking the crucial partnerships. In Jasprit Bumrah's absence, the burden lies automatically on his shoulders to get rid of the best batsman in the Proteas squad, i.e., Faf du Plessis.
4. Aiden Markram vs Ishant Sharma
It will be a battle between a young gun and a veteran. Markram has been in a sublime form and he also smashed a ton in the practice game against Board's President XI ahead of the opening match. While Ishant has proved in the West Indies that he is not slowing down with age and his swinging deliveries are still on point to trouble the openers. Both the players must provide a good start to their teams, one with the bat, other with the red cherry. So, the battle is on for both the players, where Markram is going to make a name for himself and Ishant to live up to his reputation.
5. Cheteshwar Pujara vs The whole Proteas Attack
It will be an understatement to chose a single South African bowler to step up in the battle against Cheteshwar Pujara because you need an army to stop Team India's new 'Wall'. Pujara is as important as Virat Kohli for the Test team and Faf du Plessis has a clear idea about it. Pujara is known to frustrate the opposition by not giving his wicket, something which he did in Australia. South Africa need a collective performance to get rid of a gem like Pujara and it's safe to say that he is ready to take on everybody that will come in his path.