In 11 Tests, Keegan Petersen has a mediocre record, averaging just 29.80, but if anyone remembers India’s last tour to the African nation, it was difficult not to be worried about Petersen’s ability. After India secured a win to go 1-0 up in Centurion, Petersen was the single-biggest differentiator in the next two Tests to deny India their first-ever series victory in South Africa. It even made Ravi Shastri compare the young Protean batter to Gundappa Viswanath.
His career since then doesn’t have the remnants of it, for he was ruled out of the series against Australia with injury and averaged above 30 only against Bangladesh at home. There has been a particular struggle against left-arm orthodox spinners, who have managed to draw 10.5% false shots, with the average staying below 20. India would be encouraged by his fall from grace but wouldn’t make the mistake of taking him lightly.
Tony de Zorzi has a reputation for being a dogged limited-overs batter, with a List A average of 40.02, but the recent ODI series against India really placed him on a pedestal. With scores of 81 and 119, de Zorzi, a top-order batter from Western Province, really came into his own. And if India’s history against newcomers are anything to go by, de Zorzi can create enough ripples.
After making his debut against West Indies in March 2023, de Zorzi, only in his second Test, showed immense character to contribute 85 runs on a difficult Johannesburg wicket. It was one of those series where West Indies pacers were relentless in their approach, but across both matches, the opener from Gauteng managed a control rate of 85.5% - an impressive feat nonetheless.
De Zorzi's white-ball credentials have already been established, but he is an equally potent red-ball batter. In the last three years, the left-hander has an average of 49.56 across 32 first-class matches. Last year, he was in the spotlight for smashing an unbeaten triple century against the Free State Knights, for Western Province.
Yet to make his Test debut, Nandre Burger is already considered a potential replacement for Anrich Nortje, who is still recovering from a lower back stress fracture. His express pace and the ability to swing the ball were on display in the limited-overs series against India - and that made Rajasthan Royals bid for the pacer in the recently concluded IPL Auction.
In his 40-match first-class career, Burger has an impressive record, picking 122 wickets at an average of 27.85. Injuries have often been a bugbear, but Burger, whenever fit, fires with a bullet in his hand. In 2019, starring against England’s Test squad representing South Africa 'A', Burger managed to send Joe Root and Jos Buttler packing - a sign of his credentials if ever there was any doubt. Indian batters’ perennial struggle in South African conditions, often against high pace may concern them on what lies ahead.
David Bedingham hasn’t played an international game for South Africa, but he already was a matter of big revolt in South African cricket. Not too long ago, post the 2019 season, the Cape Cobras batter had decided to move to England permanently, abandoning any hopes of playing for South Africa. His coach Ashwell Prince was so angry back then that he targeted Cricket South Africa, saying, "We can't keep pretending there is nothing wrong."
However, the UK's departure from the European Union meant Bedingham had to move back, even though Durham kept him as one of their two overseas players for the following season. He scored Durham's second-highest Championship score of their history with 257 against Derbyshire in 2021, apart from posting three more 180+ scores across 2021 and 2022.
Overall, since 2019, Bedingham has amassed 4,561 runs in first-class cricket at a remarkable average of 53.66, having struck 13 hundreds. With a potential Test debut on the cards for the 29-year-old, the visitors will need to be on their toes.
Despite playing 14 Tests already, Kyle Verreynne just has an average of 28.60. Even the last time he played against India, he just barely survived, averaging just 10.4 across two Tests. Of the lot, he is clearly not the very best option, but then why are we talking about him?
The devil here lies in the details. Verreynne is a wicket-keeper batter and has shown a great deal of patience while batting in the middle order.
Last year against Australia, the 26-year-old scored a couple of half-centuries in challenging situations, bailing the side out of the woods. In his first-class career, he is one of the very few South African batters currently to hold an average above 50, notably across 74 games. South African coaches and captains over the years have backed him as one for the future and someone who holds immense potential to fill in the shoes of Quinton de Kock. Hence, undermining him wouldn’t be something India will do.
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