India look to breach another fortress as they take on transitioning South Africa
KL Rahul hints India may stick to five-bowler strategy for Boxing Day Test
Just how formidable are South Africa at home, really?
India for Boxing Day Test: Shreyas Iyer, Hanuma Vihari, neither or both?
CSA revises bio-bubble norms for India tour
ZIM v NAM (1)
SLCD-XI in ENG (1)
ENG v NZ (1)
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Cheteshwar Pujara feels this could be India's chance to win their maiden Test series in South Africa. For that, he backed India's fast bowlers to be the point of difference and pick up "20 wickets in every Test" on the tour.
"Our fast bowlers have been the difference between the two sides whenever we have played abroad," Pujara said. "If you look at the Australia series, even if you look at the England series, we have done exceptionally well as a bowling unit and I am sure that will be the case even in South Africa. Our fast bowlers are our strength and I hope that they will be able to utilise these conditions and give us 20 wickets in every Test match."
Another thing that could work in India's favour is many of their squad members have recently played red-ball cricket. India hosted New Zealand for a two-match Test series in late November and early December, while Hanuma Vihari and back-up opener Priyank Panchal were part of India A's shadow tour to South Africa. The hosts, though, last played a Test in June, against West Indies in Gros Islet. While Pujara didn't dwell too much on that advantage, he said it was nice that the players were together recently.
"The good thing is we played a couple of Test matches in India," Pujara said. "So most of the guys are in touch, and when it comes to preparation, the support staff has been excellent. They have been supporting us well and we have five or six days more before we head into the first Test. I am sure there is enough time for us to prepare and guys are looking forward to this series. This is the best opportunity for us to win our first series in South Africa. So all of us are looking forward to it."
The series will be played in a biosecure environment. CSA had originally put together slightly relaxed bio-bubble plans but these have now been modified following the emergence of Omicron, the latest Covid-19 variant. Pujara said while staying in bio-bubbles puts certain restrictions on you, it also gets players to spend more time together.
"Sometimes I feel bio-bubble helps the team environment where you end up spending more time with the team players, you are in the team room, you are having more team dinners together, so overall I feel sometimes it helps the team environment but yes, there are some challenges as well. You are not allowed to go out, you cannot explore the country. So there are restrictions as well but at the same time you are getting to play some cricket and that's the most important thing being a cricketer. We want to play some cricket and we are able to play cricket even in a biosecure bubble, so that helps."
This is India's eighth Test tour to South Africa. The series will start on December 26, with the boxing day Test in Centurion.