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African safari: Happy hunting ground for Indian skippers

Last updated on 24 Dec 2021 | 06:36 AM
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African safari: Happy hunting ground for Indian skippers

Here’s a summary of the performance of Indian captains, both current (on that tour) and former in Tests in South Africa

Recent events off the cricket field have put a lot of focus on Indian Test captain Virat Kohli. So, all eyes and ears will be on him as India take the field against South Africa in the Boxing Day Test match at Centurion. Experts are calling this as India’s best chance to win a Test series in South Africa. Kohli, the skipper has to strive for that and at the same time the batsman in him would be raring to be back amongst runs. 

Interestingly, Indian men who have been skipper on South African tours or led the team in the past have enjoyed a good run with the bat in the Test matches. Here’s a summary of the performance of Indian captains, both current (on that tour) and former in Tests on the African Safari.  


Indian team was being led by Mohammad Azharuddin on this historic tour and while he wasn’t able to showcase much, former captain Kapil Dev did have a decent outing. With 202 runs in the four match Test series, he was the joint highest run-getter (along with Sachin Tendulkar) for India. 

His knock of 129 in the second innings at Port Elizabeth was instrumental in helping India reach a respectable total of 215 after they had been reduced to 31 for six. Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough as South Africa chased the target of 153 with the loss of just one wicket. 


From a team’s perspective, this was a disappointing tour for India as they were completely outplayed losing the series 0-2. The reigns of captaincy was on the young shoulders of Tendulkar and not surprisingly, with 241 runs in the three Tests he was the highest scorer from India. 

One passage of play which gave ultimate joy to the Indians was the partnership between Tendulkar (169) and his predecessor Azhar (115) in the second Test at Cape Town. The fact that a book (Sachin and Azhar at Cape Town: Indian and South African Cricket through the prism of a partnership by Abhishek Mukherjee and Arunabha Sengupta) has been written on it tells a story in itself. Sadly, their brilliance was not able to avoid a loss, but those 222 runs that they scored together was batting at its very best. 


It was a controversial tour, courtesy the charges of ball tampering and excessive appealing on Indian players by Match Referee Mike Denness. While skipper Sourav Ganguly didn’t enjoy a good time with the bat in the Test matches, former Indian captain Tendulkar turned out to be the highest scorer from his team with 193 runs. The highlight of this tour for Tendulkar was his knock of 155 in the first Test at Bloemfontein. 


This team had three people who had led India at some point of time. Rahul Dravid was the current captain and the team also had Tendulkar. But the man who made a real impact was former skipper Ganguly. 

It was a comeback tour for him, and he surely made it a royal one. His unbeaten 51 in the first Test at Johannesburg was what heroic stories are made of. It was the highest score by an Indian in the first innings. But the most satisfying part was that it played a part in India’s first Test victory on South African soil. With 214 runs, he was also India’s highest run scorer in the series. 


The tradition of captains or former captains performing well in South Africa was continued by Tendulkar on the 2010-11 tour. He was in pristine form and also brought up his 50th Test century. With two centuries in the three match Test series, he aggregated 326 at an average of 81.5 He also had an excellent partnership of 172 with skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (90) in the second innings of the first Test at Centurion. 


This was one rare South African series wherein an Indian captain (Mahendra Singh Dhoni in this case) was not able to make much of an impact with the bat. (This Indian team also didn’t have anyone else who had led in the past)


After the gap in 2013, an Indian captain again left his mark on the tour to South Africa. Indian captain Virat Kohli was in prolific form on his second tour to South Africa. His 286 runs was the highest from either side. Apart from his knock of 153 in the second Test at Centurion, he also played a key role in the third Test which India won. In this low scoring Test, he made 54 and 41 as India won by 63 runs. 

“Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire”

Given this history of Indian skippers (current or past), Kohli fans can certainly hope for an encore from him. It will be interesting to see if he can make a strong comeback like Ganguly, the current BCCI President had done on the 2006 tour. 

As the Austro-Bohemian composer had famously said, “Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire”, Kohli can definitely avoid some fire by scoring heavily. 

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