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Wait of expectations

However, for the action to start at Supersport Park, the heavy rains predicted on the first two days need to subside.

Wait of expectations

Jasprit Bumrah bowls in the nets

CENTURION: He endured the heartbreak of a lifetime 36 evenings ago but Rohit Sharma will give his all to erase the memories of a World Cup final defeat as he trains his eyes on ending India’s 31-year wait for a Test series win on South African soil.

The two-match Test rubber, starting here on the Boxing Day, will be India’s ninth away series in the Rainbow Nation since 1992, and captain Rohit will have an onerous task of traversing a difficult terrain in order to conquer what has always been dubbed the team’s ‘final frontier’.

However, for the action to start at Supersport Park, the heavy rains predicted on the first two days need to subside.

The Centurion track offers variable bounce and is one of the fastest in the region. And that makes up for a compelling contest between bat and ball in relatively cooler and windy conditions in an open ground where it can jag around a bit. In the last 50 over World Cup, skipper Rohit, at best would have emulated Kapil Dev and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, but if he and his men manage to pull off a coup in this country, he would stand first among the equals.

Mohammed Azharuddin (1992) failed, so did Sachin Tendulkar (1996) and Sourav Ganguly (2001). Rahul Dravid (2006-07), Dhoni (2010-11 and 2013-14) won Test matches, and so did Virat Kohli (2018-19 and 2021-22) but none of them could win the elusive series in South Africa.

So Rohit will have a job at hand and a win might just be the much-needed soothing balm required to heal the World Cup wounds even though the scars will remain.

For the golden generation of Indian cricketers, this is also their last African Safari and a chance to conquest what no other team could on eight previous tours.

In Temba Bavuma’s South Africa, they have a team that has a crack fast bowling attack, which could make some of the young Indian batters look like cats on hot tin roof.

For Yashasvi Jaiswal, it will be the first big test against a quality attack comprising Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Marco Jansen and Gerald Coetzee. There will be way more bounce than what he got in the Caribbean, and the variable nature of it will ask him probing questions.

Similarly, Shubman Gill and Shreyas Iyer, who have proven their mettle on sub-continental pitches, need to up their game in more challenging batting conditions. Iyer, especially, with his well-documented weakness against the short ball, will have to churn out something really special.

Coach Rahul Dravid doesn’t want Jaiswal and Gill to change their style but wants them to develop game awareness and play as per the need of the hour.

“We encourage the players to play (in a manner) they feel most comfortable. In the end they are judged by the results they produce. They know that,” Dravid said.

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