Team India is gearing up for its quest to conquer South Africa for the first time in the Test series on their soil. After a dominant show in Test cricket for the past couple of years, Virat Kohli and Co. have a new challenge ahead of them but former India opener Aakash Chopra has highlighted a major worry for them ahead of the mega-series. After conquering Australia twice, a phenomenal performance in England, India have turned out to be the top side in Test cricket and now South Africa is touted as the ‘final frontier’ for them.
Ahead of the opening Test in Centurion on Boxing Day, Aakash Chopra gave a preview of the contest where he pointed out that the openers are going to play a crucial role in the upcoming series as India will be without Rohit Sharma. In the 34-year-old’s absence, Mayank Agarwal is expected to open the innings alongside KL Rahul.
“Opening didn’t work out very well. If openers don’t do well, the team doesn’t do well. We did well in England because Rahul and Rohit were consistent; here, we don’t have that, which could be a problem,” the former Indian batter said on his official YouTube account.
“Now, Mayank will open with Rahul. Both started their India journey in the Boxing Day Tests and now they’re back. In between, Shubman Gill, Rohit Sharma, and Prithvi Shaw all opened for the side. So it’s phenomenal how the world changes, really.”
Chopra talked about India’s last tour of South Africa in 2018 and recalled apart from skipper Kohli none of the Indian batter put up a fight against the Proteas bowlers which was one of the reasons behind India’s series defeat.
“Last time (in South Africa), our highest run-scorer was Virat Kohli. He scored 286 runs at an average of 47. But there was no one else who scored runs and that was the main issue. If you don’t bat four or five sessions, it becomes difficult to win. Last time, India couldn’t even play three properly,” said Chopra.
However, the former opener feels India have a balanced pace attack with Mohammad Shami, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj, who can exploit the South African conditions well.
“Among bowlers, Philander was the top wicket-taker alongside Shami and Rabada. Bumrah had his debut series and returned with 14 wickets. The key performers are still there; in fact, we also have Siraj in the team now,” he added.
Apart from Rohit, India will also miss Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel due to injuries in the Test series. In their absence, Chopra pointed out that India’s biggest worry lies in their batting as veterans Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane are also going through a rough patch.
“India played good in Australia and England. But we are struggling in batting which is my biggest worry. We don’t have Axar or Jadeja (in lower-middle order) or Rohit (in opening order). Rahane doesn’t have the form and Pujara hasn’t been consistent as well,” said the former India batter.