South Africa v India, 1st Test, Centurion, 5th day December 20, 2010

Zaheer fit for Durban, but Raina's form a worry


On a day when South Africa expectedly finished an innings win, some consolation came India's way. After the post-match presentation, Zaheer Khan bowled a spell on the same pitch that the Test was played on, along with Ishant Sharma. MS Dhoni confirmed that Zaheer was fit, and would play the second Test. Dhoni also admitted that he was worried "to some extent" about how Suresh Raina went, but was hopeful he would bounce back.

"You need a bit of experience to play under these conditions," he said. "What really happens is you tour once in four-five years. The last time he came here was in 2006, and he was not part of the side. After that he played some ODIs and T20s, which is a completely different format. With the red ball, the approach changes, the mindset changes. You need a bit of time. It always helps. I think he will get back to form soon."

Raina lasted three balls in the first innings, hanging his bat outside off to a short-of-a-length delivery, and followed it with a steer straight into the slips in the second. However, Dhoni said that any decision on Raina's selection for Durban will be made later.

South Africa, on the other hand, have added JP Duminy and Wayne Parnell to the group of 12 named for this match. Effectively that means Johan Botha has been dropped from the original 15 that was picked for the series. The only possible change in the XI for Durban - injuries barring - could involve Lonwabo Tsotsobe, whom the Indian batsmen targeted, but Smith wasn't harsh on the seamer.

"He's inexperienced, he has to grow as a cricketer and we have to give him the tools," Smith said. "In the one-day format, he is developing already, it shows with his performances in Dubai and Abu Dhabi [against Pakistan]. He has only played three Test matches and he has a lot of developing to do. He is bowling behind an attack that has a lot of pace. I think the opposition may target him a little more and that'll provide him with the opportunity. He needs to be strong in his own head and he'll get rewards."

Smith said the comeback of Zaheer - who has dismissed him nine times in 20 innings across all formats - didn't worry him. "I don't personalise things too much. I prepare for Zaheer the same way I prepare for everyone else. He's a new-ball bowler, I'm an opening batter, so it's a natural challenge. He has obviously bowled well to left-handers, so it's an exciting prospect."

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • GULSHAN on December 23, 2010, 2:10 GMT

    If Raina was to be given another opportunity, he better sit down and watch another left hander who recently played a gem of the innings - Michael Hussey. He, swear to god didn't touch the shadow of dust of anythihg outside of the offstump. Raina might learn something there. He can demolish the oppostion, just needs a start. He hasn't been able to start really, let alone a big score!!! what a waste of a talent and an opportunity.. I am sure seniors in the team will be at him giving him a piece of advice or two. they better...!!

  • Dummy4 on December 22, 2010, 19:02 GMT

    Pujara needs to get the opportunity, or else the next tour will be full of batsmen inexperienced in South Africa. He has shown the temperament to play the longer version. I would have loved to see Virat Kohli also getting a chance, he is someone sincere, learns quickly.

    On the bowling front someone needs to shake our bowlers up. They can do better than what we saw. There is no other choice.

  • Dummy4 on December 22, 2010, 13:33 GMT

    I think Vijay should be brought in. I don't care if he plays opener or even number 5 - he has the technical skill to adapt. Raina dosen't inspire confidence in me with his techniques. Bring Vijay in. Pujara looks comfortable too.

  • Dummy4 on December 22, 2010, 9:47 GMT

    replacing unadkat and raina or whomever it be, is not going to make any difference in the outcome.. the fact is, india is not competitive against SA [IN SA].. they know that, we know that, players know that and everyone know that fact. the better we play, the closer we can go.. but defeating SA is beyond wildest dreams, and we jus jave to sit down and watch and dreadful sights of all our favrit batters getting their stumps knocked out regularly in the next 2 matches to come..

  • Alex on December 22, 2010, 9:03 GMT

    I really think PUJARA will also fail against Steyn & co. In India Raina , pujara all can play. Even Dravid failing against steyn , what chance pujara has?.

    May be he can make quick 30 as he is young.

    India will be bundles out again if sehwag gets out early. History repeats often.

  • AB on December 22, 2010, 7:07 GMT

    Some reader rightly pointed out the case for Praveen and Munaf in tests. I tend to agree with them. We need to take wickets in test matches, thats all. if someone takes 3 to 5 wickets for 100 runs when those are of the first 5-6 batsmen, its fine. We need strike bowlers to take wickets and from that perspective, Nehra, Praveen and Munaf have the uncanny ability of taking wickets in test matches. We have forgotten the pace and bounce that Agarkar used to generate and the wickets he used to take in tests (the last best match winning bowling analysis outside India came from Agarkar in Adelaide), but due to his ODI expensiveness, we dropped him from test matches. Then when physically strong Mithun performed so well even on dead Srilankan wickets, we didnt pick him for the juicy SA wkts. Rather we took two rookies to appease Central and East zone selectors and Zaheer despite knowing his injury history. Nehra was the right choice, with Munaf,Mithun, Ishant and Sreesanth.

  • Agnel on December 22, 2010, 6:56 GMT

    No use even if Zaheer is fit, it needs a full bowling unit to perform well to take 20 wickets in test matches. People tend to think the toss went against us in the first test. Thats may be true, but even if it was in our favour, there is no guarantee this Indian pace attack of 130kph speed would have bowled them out even under 300 by Day 2! A note about the ability of Ashish Nehra. His ability to move the ball, seem it and use bounce at a speed of around 140kph is very useful in test matches. It is not necessary that he has to bowl 10-15 overs at a stretch in test matches, he should be used as a strike bowler to give us wickets when needed, ignore if he is expensive. Our inability of taking wickets is what is costing us. Nehra has proved that he is a wicket taking bowler in any condition - pacy or dead. About Nehra's fitness - I feel his fitness is better than Zaheer, Ishant and Sreesanth put together! Munaf's accuracy (like McGrath) was also missed in 1st test, he too can take wkts.

  • Dummy4 on December 22, 2010, 1:18 GMT

    India team didn't play badly in the 1st is true that SA bowlers bowled well but the conditions on the 1st day is also a factor for India's 1st innings demolition... India played well in the 2nd innings..good to see dhoni getting runs in test...the one thing apart from Zaheer coming in for Unadkat that needs to change is somehow bringing Pujara in to the team...probably dropping Raina for the cause...whatever be said of Raina as a classy player in ODI and T20 format, Pujara is definitely a better player than Raina in the Test level...he can score runs..serious runs and that will plug a hole in the lower middle order...not only for this series but also a vital batting spot in the middle order in future...

  • Sean on December 22, 2010, 0:21 GMT

    Pujara is in the form of his life as evident from his high scoring in domestic, A team & Test scores show all of 2010. He should get a nod ahead of Raina who just needs some time off from Cricket. Even 1 test match break did wonders for Mitchell Johnson.

  • Prashant on December 21, 2010, 22:04 GMT

    Nehra isn't that fit a person. I think the selectors didn't want to risk getting him injured just before the WC. He's more suited for the limited overs format. And it makes sense too. He'll be a great asset come February.

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