India in South Africa | India must put the Centurion debacle behind and regroup

Opening salvo: Siraj and Bumrah will look to go hard at the South Africans with the new ball in Cape Town.
| Photo Credit: PTI

 The sun sets late in Cape Town.

At this time of the year, there is bright light till about 8 p.m. There was indeed plenty of sunshine on New Year’s Day throughout.

The Indian cricket team, which flew down from Johannesburg on Sunday, must be hoping the new year brings a change of fortune after the disappointment of the Centurion Test. Its finish was anticlimactic, in fact, as the visitors’ second innings proved a disaster.

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For a team that had arrived on these shores seeking to create history — wanting to become the first from India to win a series in the longest format — and its millions of followers, the defeat hurt. The manner of the defeat must have hurt more.

At a time when the Indians are no longer the poor tourists that they used to be — remember some of those superb wins in countries like England and Australia in the recent years — a loss inside three days can be a setback. But there is enough character in this team to put the Centurion debacle behind and get the campaign in the new World Test Championship cycle back on track; India’s Test record at this venue isn’t very flattering, though.

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In this age of non-stop cricket, teams do not get much time to recover, and all those practice games, which helped established players regain form and unearth fresh talents, are becoming a distant memory. All the practice for a visiting side — or the host, for that matter — happen in the nets, or on the ground, a day or two before a Test.

Most of the Indian players had an extended session of practice at the Newlands Cricket Ground on Monday. Only a few, like captain Rohit Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja, were missing; they had spent a lot of time in the nets at Centurion, though, after the first Test.

Virat Kohli had skipped that session, but he was one of the men in focus during the training which was conducted on the ground, as well as the nets. He was as intense as he is when he bats in a game.

He took on the Indian bowlers, including Jasprit Bumrah and R. Ashwin, as well as a local left-arm pacer. He stepped out to hit the India off-spinner over his head.

Rahul Dravid, who was a calm presence, would want him to be as authoritative in the second Test, starting on Wednesday.

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