Indian cricket star Virat Kohli seeks to conquer final frontier in South Africa

India's Virat Kohli leaves the pitch after training at SuperSport Park in Centurion on 21 December, 2021./AFP
India’s Virat Kohli leaves the pitch after training at SuperSport Park in Centurion on 21 December, 2021./AFP

Virat Kohli bruised from being fired as India’s one-day captain bids to rebound by leading his country to a historic triumph in South Africa in a three-match Test series which starts at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Sunday.

South Africa is the only regular Test-playing nation where India has yet to win a series.

“We have worked really hard to win series away from India,” said vice-captain KL Rahul at India’s pre-match press conference on Friday.

“We’ve won series in England and Australia, which gives us a lot of confidence. We haven’t won a series in South Africa, which gives us extra motivation to do our best.”

South African captain Dean Elgar said he thought the teams were evenly matched.

“India is number one in the world for a reason but the fact that we are playing in our own back yard gives us an advantage.”

Despite losing to New Zealand in last year’s world Test championship final, India are the top-ranked Test team, five places ahead of South Africa, who have lost several key players to retirement in recent years.

Kohli leads an experienced side.

Crucially, it has the fast-bowling fire power to match South Africa’s in conditions which usually favour pace.

No fewer than ten of India’s 18-man squad have toured South Africa before.

Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ishant Sharma, Ravichandran Ashwin, Umesh Yadav and reserve wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha are on their fourth tour of the country.

Ajinkya Rahane and Mohammed Shami are on their third tour, while Rahul and Jasprit Bumrah were part of the closely-contested 2017/18 series which South Africa won 2-1.

“We know what to expect and we’ve had great preparation,” said Rahul.

“The pace and bounce is very different to other countries and it was very important that we came here early and had preparation in the middle.”

Rahul indicated India were likely to maintain their recent strategy of picking five bowlers, which he acknowledged would lead to a “very difficult discussion” about settling on five specialist batsmen.