After a disastrous outing in the subcontinent in 2015 apart from a dismal record of late in the region, the visitors will be eager to redeem some pride by opening their World test Championship campaign on a high. With some notable retirements recently, the playing XI will be a relatively young one.
Dean Elgar: The batsman holds the peculiar record of having the most runs in India among the current crop of travelling players, while also having the most wickets in the country among them with five. The gritty batsman has often been the rare source of inspiration for an underwhelming batting order and his consistency will prove to be a big positive factor for the Proteas heading into the series.
Aiden Markram: The opener will be brimming with confidence heading into the Test series after strong showings ahead of the crucial match for the ‘A’ as well as the senior team. After a comprehensive 161 for South Africa ‘A’, he made it two centuries in two matches with a century against the Board President’s XI and will be looking forward to continuing with this purple patch of form.
Faf du Plessis: The most experienced campaigned of the lot, the skipper will have to lead his team from the front should he have any hopes of his team surviving against India’s world class bowling attack. Having played extensively in the IPL, he is familiar with the conditions in the country and will have to do much better than the previous tour in which he had managed just 60 runs in seven innings.
Temba Bavuma: Having been assigned as the deputy of Faf du Plessis for the series, the old-school batsman will need to make sure he shoulders the responsibility without letting the additional pressure get to him. He will be feeling good about himself after a successful maiden T20 outing in international colours and needs to carry some sort of confidence while donning the all-whites.
Quinton de Kock: Probably the best batsman wicketkeeper in the game’s longest format at the moment, the influential batsman will be making his Test debut in India and can be sure of some challenging times ahead. However, he has shown numerous times in the past his quality with the bat and having led the team to a drawn T20 series, his ability will need to reflect on his performances for the Proteas to have a shot at winning.
Theunis de Bruyn: He is the best bet for South Africa to battle against the onslaught of spin, as he showed last year with one of the few positive performances in a disastrous tour of the neighbouring island country of Sri Lanka. Well versed at playing the sweep shot and a regular part of the annual spin camps held in India, these are the qualities that are likely to give him the edge over another budding prospect, Heinrich Klassen.
Keshav Maharaj: With Imran Tahir having quit the game for good, Maharaj will be shouldering the important responsibility of heading the spin attack as the team’s most experienced slow bowler, even though he has nearly 40 more wickets to his name than the veteran. He has been as successful as one can expect a South African spinner to be with 95 wickets in 24 Tests, not to mention that he is a useful batsman lower down the order and his consistency is what can drive him not only to be the X-factor for the Proteas, but to have his name written down as one of the best slow bowlers ever to have emerged from the country.
Dane Piedt: Even though playing a second spinner will compromise the team’s batting depth a bit, the fact that the 29-year-old is also a capable batsman and last year recorded his maiden first-class century will make a case for his inclusion in a track deemed to be a paradise for the spinners. He had ended the domestic season as the tournament’s highest wicket taker with 54 scalps in 10 matches, which is astounding to say the least given the conditions that exist in his home country. Having made an appearance four years ago in the final Test, his contribution will certainly be pivotal.
Vernon Philander: With his partner in crime having bid adieu to the game as the country’s highest ever wicket taker, Philander will now be leading the budding pace attack and wielding the new ball in an attempt to add substantially to his tally of 214 scalps. Even though he had an exceptional average of just a notch above 15 the last time the two faced, the changed conditions will hold key, apart from his ability to play crucial knocks with the tail as is evident from his eight Test half-centuries.
Lungi Ngidi: The team may have travelled to India but it will regardless look to take full advantage of its fearsome pace unit and take the attack to the opposition, which will likely see them play three specialist pacers. Having missed the mega event in the summer due to a hamstring injury, the young speedster made a commanding comeback picking up five-for in the first unofficial Test against India ‘A’. He has since continued with the same momentum and will be key in taking early wickets to give his team the edge.
Kagiso Rabada: Simply one of the best bowlers in the world at the pretty young age of 24, probably the biggest disappointments of the series will be not being able to see him go head to head against counterpart Jasprit Bumrah. 176 wickets in 37 Tests at an average of less than 22, Rabada is a generational bowler who has already scaled the heights by being at the top in the past and is more than a capable replacement for Dale Steyn if he continues with his raw aggression.