JOHANNESBURG – Even Faf du Plessis admitted he would lose money, if someone challenged him about India’s record at the Wanderers.
India have played four Tests at the Wanderers, the venue where pace and bounce is the norm, where fast bowling rules and where India, uncomfortable against pace and bounce, and supposedly scared of pace bowling, have yet to lose.
India have won one and drawn three at the Bullring.
In one of those draws South Africa needed rain to save them and in another the Proteas took their foot off the gas with victory in sight chasing 458 in the last innings in 2013.
“It’s an amazing stat; if you’d asked me if they’d lost here, I’d definitely put money on it that they had,” Du Plessis said.
It is, Du Plessis acknowledged one of those quirky anomalies sport can throw up occasionally.
Du Plessis tried to compare it to South Africa’s record at the Waca in Perth, where the Proteas have played four times, winning on three occasions.
But Perth provides conditions with which South African players are at least familiar. There is nothing like the Wanderers in India ... and yet South Africa haven’t been able to beat India in Johannesburg.
Naturally, it’s a record the South Africans want to overturn and with the possibility of a series whitewash on the line, it adds to the home team’s motivation for the final match of the series.
As was the case in Cape Town, South Africa is once again mulling the composition of the starting XI.
Du Plessis said there are three options available to the home team; stick with the same team that won the second Test in Centurion, or bring in an all-rounder (Andile Phehlukwayo) or pick the extra batsman (Theunis de Bruyn).
The South African captain is reluctant to play without Keshav Maharaj, something he did last year against Sri Lanka, when the quartet of fast bowlers at his disposal lacked the quality of the group available to him this year.
“Kesh is an extremely talented spin bowler and we are very lucky to have him, if we do think of leaving him out we have to be 100 percent sure that’s we want to leave him out,” said South Africa’s captain.
At least in South Africa’s case changes to the starting XI seem reasonably understandable. India have changed their team in almost every Test that Virat Kohli has been captain and once again, as far as the tourists are concerned, all options are on the table for the final match of the series.
“That’s remarkable,” Du Plessis said when told India had not picked the same team for consecutive Tests in Kohli’s tenure as captain.
“I don’t see how we’ll be able to do that. Obviously, it works for India in India.”
India are set to make changes; Ajinkya Rahane has put in some hard work this week and simply has to start, while Dinesh Karthik is an option to start in place of Parthiv Patel, who was awful behind the stumps in the second Test. Like South Africa, the major call for them is whether to start spinner Ravi Ashwin or play an all-seam attack.
For India and Kohli, although the series is lost, there is plenty to motivate them at the Wanderers. They have a big year ahead with high profile series’s in England and Australia, and to garner some kind of positivity ahead of those tours, they need to win in conditions which are foreign to them.
“It’s never a bad time to start anything and the batsmen are looking forward to rectify what happened in the first two games and correcting those,” said Indian captain Virat Kohli.
It’s a time for everyone to step up and in times that have not gone our way to change things around for us and that will build characters, individuals and personalities. That can be a milestone for a lot of guys going forward if they can step up in this game and be the difference in this Test.”
THE teams are:
South Africa (likely): Aiden Markram, Dean Elgar, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis (capt), Theunis de Bruyn, Quinton de Kock, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, Morne Morkel, Lungi Ngidi
India (likely): KL Rahul, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (capt), Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Dinesh Karthik, Hardik Pandya, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar
Match Officials: On-field - Aleem Dar (Pak), Ian Gould (Eng). TV - Michael Gough (Eng). Referee - Andy Pycroft (Zim)
TV SABC 3 and SuperSport 2 (9.30am)