Cricket

Freedom Trophy 2019 predictions: Can Team India complete a clean sweep against South Africa?

  • Austin Coutinho
  • September 30th, 2019
  • 10:56:38 IST
  • If Indian fans believe that the young and inexperienced South African side are going to be pushovers in the Freedom Trophy 2019 series, they sure have another think coming

  • The Proteas have a sharp new ball attack in Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi and Vernon Philander

  • The chinks in the armour of Team India are just what South Africa would be looking for, in the forthcoming Freedom Series

In Test match cricket, India has relied heavily upon two players to deliver over the last year-and-a-half. One of them is the unfailing Virat Kohli and the other, ace fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah.

Bumrah will miss the Freedom Trophy series to be played between India and South Africa this October due to an injury. He will sit out the entire three-Test series and it is said that he may not be fit enough even to play against the Bangladeshis later in the year. The BCCI, announcing Bumrah’s pulling out of the series, called his injury a ‘minor’ stress fracture in the lower back.

My knowledge of sports medicine may be zilch. As a young fast bowler at the local level, however, I had developed stress fractures of the shin bones in the mid-1980s and just to stand at fine-leg after a short spell of bowling was torturous; it used to be excruciatingly painful. I was told later to strengthen my calves and the muscles around the shin bones to get rid of the pain. The stress fracture in the lower back for Bumrah, I believe, would have been caused by overwork, weak muscles and stress caused by a freak action. I guess, it would be painful too.

Skipper Kohli will badly miss Bumrah’s services in the Freedom series. He was his ‘go-to man’ in tough situations. The Team India management and the selectors will therefore do well to decide whether they want the young fast bowler to play just the white-ball format, the Tests or lose him in all three forms of the game in future. In an earlier column, I had mentioned that in Bumrah’s case, Team India and the selectors are probably killing the goose that lays golden eggs!

The Proteas will be happy though; Bumrah, with his unusual action, and pace and movement off the track, has troubled most batsmen the world over in the last few years. India may therefore go into the Test matches at Vishakhapatnam, Pune and Ranchi with only two pace bowlers, namely, Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami. On tracks that may turn — and bounce — I would think, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav will be assigned the task of bowling the South Africans out twice, along with the pacers.

Skipper Kohli will badly miss Bumrah’s services in the Freedom series. The Proteas will be happy though. Illustration courtesy Austin Coutinho

Skipper Kohli will badly miss Bumrah’s services in the Freedom series. The Proteas will be happy though. Illustration courtesy Austin Coutinho

If Indian fans believe that the young and inexperienced South African side are going to be pushovers this series, they sure have another think coming. The high-flying Indians, after their recent Test wins in the Caribbean Isles, will surely like it to be a clean sweep of the three-Test series. A 3-0 win will get them into an unassailable position in the World Test Championships; but it isn’t going to be easy. The Faf du Plessis led side, after their twin losses to Sri Lanka in the last year-and-a-half and despite their win over the Pakistanis, at home, will be a bit apprehensive about playing India in its backyard. They will fight all the same, just like they did in the T20 international series just concluded.

The Proteas have a sharp new ball attack in Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi and Vernon Philander. Anrich Nortje, if he can stay fit through the series, will also be a handful. In the spin bowling department, Keshav Maharaj will lead the attack with left-arm spinner, Senuran Muthusamy to back him. Dane Piedt will perhaps have to bide his time and may make it to the playing eleven only if one of the two left-arm spinners aren’t fit to play. It looks like Rabada and Maharaj will have a lot of work to do on the slow Indian tracks.

The responsibility of putting up a sizeable total on the board, to trouble the strong Indian squad, will lie squarely on the shoulders of Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram, Du Plessis, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock and perhaps, Theunis de Bruyn. Philander and Muthusamy can also add useful runs in the lower order. If the South Africans have to do well on this tour, they shall have to play Ashwin and Kuldeep Yadav with a lot of patience. Amol Muzumdar, the South African batting coach, I am sure will impress upon his wards the importance of not giving away their wickets to the duo, playing rash strokes.

The Indian think-tank will perhaps persist with Rishabh Pant as wicketkeeper-batsman, ahead of Wriddhiman Saha, during this series. The latter, the country’s best ‘keeper at the moment may therefore have to cool his heels till the gloss on Pant’s ‘explosive batting talent’ wears off. This series will also see Team India’s efforts to revive Rohit Sharma’s career in the five-day format. Sharma — a white-ball legend — in all probability will open India’s batting with Mayank Agarwal.

The experiment with the opening slots, Cheteshwar Pujara’s recent form, Pant in the lower order — and as ‘keeper — and the absence of Bumrah, may just be the chinks in the armour that South Africa would be looking for to trouble India in the forthcoming Freedom Series. Will the talented Shubman Gill get a look in? I doubt if he will.

Looking into my crystal ball, I think India will win the series against South Africa and the Freedom Trophy with it. I am not sure though if it will be a clean sweep.

The author is a caricaturist and sportswriter. A former fast bowler, coach and sports administrator, he believes in calling a spade a spade.

Updated Date: September 30, 2019 10:56:38 IST

Find latest and upcoming tech gadgets online on Tech2 Gadgets. Get technology news, gadgets reviews & ratings. Popular gadgets including laptop, tablet and mobile specifications, features, prices, comparison.

also read

Indian cinema and the Dalit identity: The groundbreaking defiance of Nagraj Manjule's Fandry
Entertainment

Indian cinema and the Dalit identity: The groundbreaking defiance of Nagraj Manjule's Fandry

Fandry is a rigorous cinematic exercise for viewers to contemplate on: what kind of society we have become; what kind of cinema this society has produced; and what kind of society cinema has constructed, in which a man is denied love just because he is Dalit.

Following JK Rowling's essay, Harry Potter fan sites distance from author, reject transphobic beliefs
Lifestyle

Following JK Rowling's essay, Harry Potter fan sites distance from author, reject transphobic beliefs

Harry Potter fan websites The Leaky Cauldron and Mugglenet distance from author JK Rowling, using their platforms to 'counteract the harm she has caused'

Sourav Ganguly names five current players from Indian Test team he would have picked in his squad
First Cricket News

Sourav Ganguly names five current players from Indian Test team he would have picked in his squad

Recently, Ganguly expressed his views on various topics during a conversation with India batsman Mayank Agarwal on the latest episode of Open Nets with Mayank.