Amid the chaos of the pandemic outbreak in South Africa, India’s tour to the Rainbow nation got the green signal and will be played behind closed doors. Scheduled to start earlier (December 17), the series was pushed forward and finally will be starting from December 26 (Boxing Day). Initially, the tour comprised three Tests, three ODIs and three T20Is. India will now be playing three Tests and three ODIs with the three T20Is postponed indefinitely.
India have only won three of the 20 Tests they have played in South Africa which is a testimony of their struggles. Heading into the Test series, let's look at what the numbers have to say on how India have performed in South Africa and how South Africa have been doing in recent times:
The only country where India haven’t won a series
Over the years, India have played at least a series in nine different countries and won at least one series in eight of them. However, South Africa is the only country where they haven’t won a series. The only time they managed not to lose a series but draw one was in 2010 under MS Dhoni’s captaincy. The last time India toured in 2018, they lost the first two matches and managed to win the last one, handing South Africa their sixth series trophy in seven played.
India’s record in the three venues
The three Tests will be played in Centurion, Johannesburg and Cape Town. Across the three venues, India have had a mixed bag of results. In Centurion, where India are playing the first Test, India have played two and lost both. Whereas in Cape Town (3rd Test), they have played five matches and haven’t won a match. They have lost two and drawn three. On the other hand, in Johannesburg, India have played five matches and haven’t lost a single match. Including the win in 2018, India have won two and drawn three.
Leading twice in a series to South Africa
India have toured South Africa seven times. From the start in 1992 till the 2010 series, India had a different captain. Mohammad Azharuddin in 1992 was the first Indian captain to tour South Africa. Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid led once before MS Dhoni was in charge of the 2010 series. Three years later, MS Dhoni became the first Indian captain to lead India twice in a series to South Africa. Now, Kohli is set to match Dhoni after leading India in the 2018 series.
Commendable home performers
Barring the fact that South Africa are sixth in the Test rankings, they have been a competitive team in their backyard, especially their bowlers. Yes! They suffered a massive blow when Anrich Nortje was sidelined due to a persistent hip injury. South African bowlers have been exceptional in home Tests since 2019. The Proteas have bagged a wicket every 27.8 runs and 47.6 balls, their balls/wicket ratio of 47.6 is the second best among all teams at home. Only India have bettered them as they have bagged a wicket every 43.6 balls.
Is captaincy a burden or a curse?
In Tests since 2020, South Africa have had three different captains. After Faf du Plessis stepped down as the captain of the Test side in February 2020 following a home series loss against England, Quinton de Kock took over for a few matches. But, that turned out to be a disaster as it took a huge toll on his batting. His averages dropped to 12.3 in four matches as a captain. Now, Dean Elgar is the captain. His record as a captain in Tests isn’t that great. In fact, in Tests since 2020, South Africa’s captains have averaged 17.5 in 15 innings with only one 50+ score. Is it a curse? Or too much responsibility?
India’s openers in good form
Though the present openers, KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal, the obvious choice for the first Test, have very less experience in South African conditions, the only thing backing them is their form. Rahul has played only two matches in these conditions and Mayank has zero knowledge. Back-up opener Priyank Panchal has played two first-class matches in South Africa and not too long ago as well. In any case, Mayank has been in tremendous form. The Indian openers have had a good year in away conditions, especially outside Asia.
Throughout the year, Indian openers have averaged 41.3, with Rohit being the leader with 906 runs. The aspect that enthralls the Indian fans is their record in non-Asian conditions. The openers have averaged 40.4 in non-Asian conditions. This is only the fourth time in a calendar year that Indian openers have averaged over 40 in non-Asian conditions after playing five or more matches. Rohit’s absence is a drawback for sure, but the form they are carrying should give them enough confidence.