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The successors to the Old Guard: Against India, South Africa aim to move forward

In the absence of stalwarts like Hashim Amla and Dale Steyn, as well as AB De Villiers and Imran Tahir, who were the part of South Africa's last tour to India, Proteas' road ahead is tough, and the journey begins tomorrow.

Rishabh Gupta Written by: Rishabh Gupta New Delhi Published on: October 01, 2019 17:28 IST
India vs South Africa
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South Africa will begin their campaign in the World Test Championship on Wednesday.

A significantly weakened South African team are set to take on the World No.1 side India at their home as they begin their campaign in the World Test Championship on Wednesday. The Proteas have had a relatively poor year so far, which saw them finish a dismal seventh in the group stage of the 2019 World Cup and conceding a series defeat to Sri Lanka at home.

In the upcoming Test series against India, the Proteas will rue the absence of the fiery Dale Steyn in their bowling attack. Hashim Amla, who has a brilliant record against India, has retired from all the formats of the game. Imran Tahir and AB de Villiers, who were also the part of South Africa’s previous tour to India in 2015/16, have also retired from international cricket.

With the big names missing in the South African side, the task is daunting. Beating the Indian side at their home is a huge ask for any side, and for an inexperienced one such as Faf du Plessis’, it becomes ever-more challenging.

However, even as the South African team comes to the series as the underdog, there are a number of players who can prove to be the difference for the team, and step up in the absence of their stalwarts. We take a look at the names who can prove to be the likely successors of the above-mentioned stars in their position in the South African team.

Aiden Markram

Indian captain Virat Kohli showed his appreciation for the opener Aiden Markram during the side’s tour to South Africa last year in January, and the Proteas opener richly deserved it. Markram took on the Indian pacers impressively during the series, but it would be a different game altogether on the spin-friendly Indian pitches.

India Tv - Aiden Markram

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Aiden Markram

Markram, who is traditionally an off-side player, will be taking on the challenge against the likes of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, who can wreak havoc with their sharp turns and pace. The South African opener, however, had a good outing in the warm-up match against Board’s President XI, which would give him a boost as Proteas prepare for the first Test. He scored a century in the game.

Temba Bavuma

Bavuma’s career trajectory in the longest format has been relative to Rohit Sharma’s for India so far, in that the South African had a series of start-stops, and despite showing immense potential, he hasn’t been able to do justice to his abilities.

Bavuma’s experience comes crucial in the middle-order, and he has shown it on occasions when he smoothened the early blows in the top-order. The challenge for Bavuma would now be to lengthen his time on the crease. In the absence of the Amla, there will be added pressure on Bavuma as he takes on the World No.1 side at home.

Like Markram, however, Bavuma also played a decent knock of 82 in the warm-up match against Board’s President XI.

Earlier this month, the 29-year-old batsman also made his T20I debut against India and played a crucial role in both the games, and Faf du Plessis’ would expect a similar outing from Bavuma in the whites.

Kagiso Rabada

Yes, we know Rabada has been one of the best bowlers among the current generation, but don’t be surprised. Rabada may share a famous rivalry with Virat Kohli, but he will have his own point to prove in India.

In South Africa’s previous tour to India in 2015/16, Rabada played three Test matches, and took only two wickets. He will not only be aiming to improve his record this time, but also etch his name among the modern bowling greats in the world cricket with strong performances in India.

India Tv - Kagiso Rabada

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Kagiso Rabada

Rabada also enters the tour as the leader of his bowling attack, much like Dale Steyn. While Steyn’s record in India reads a fairly impressive 26 wickets in 6 Tests, it is now time for Rabada to take over the responsibility.

Keshav Maharaj

In South Africa’s previous tour to India in 15/16, Imran Tahir ended as the third-highest wicket-taker (14 wickets in 4 Tests) in the series, even as there was a significant gap between him and the top-2 (Ashwin and Jadeja). Keshav Maharaj, who is on his only second tour to the sub-continent, will be aiming to better Tahir’s figures.

Maharaj famously took 9 wickets in an innings against Sri Lanka during the tour to the island nation last year, and ended up with 16 wickets in two Tests. Yet, the 29-year-old spinner recently said that his performances against India will decide if he belongs in international cricket, and he’s not entirely wrong.

India boasts of some of the best spin-friendly wickets, and the venues of the first two tests – Visakhapatnam and Pune have a history of assisting spinners. The Indian batsmen are no rookies against spinners, though, and the challenge will be huge on Maharaj to prove a point.