CAPE TOWN – India opener Murali Vijay is preparing for “whatever is thrown at me” and counting on his “X-factor” when the battle royale against the Proteas gets under way at Newlands on Friday.
He is certainly going to need it, for opening the batting in South Africa is a particularly arduous task.
Just ask former Proteas captain Graeme Smith. “Biff” was never shy of sharing his view that facing the new ball down in Africa was among the greatest challenges in world cricket.
The statistics certainly back up Smith’s claims with South Africa the only Test-playing country with three venues among the top 10 toughest ones for openers.
“I agree with him (Smith). It is difficult,” Vijay said after training at Newlands on Wednesday.
“I have been here a couple of times. It is challenging for opening batsmen. As you know, the bounce, seam movement and the conditions, it is something really exciting for an opener to go out there and perform.”
Vijay did not have an auspicious maiden Test in South Africa back in 2010, but improved greatly upon his return three years later when he fell just three runs short of a richly-deserved century in the second Test in Durban.
Normally an attacking batsman back home, Vijay has though been much more restrictive on previous tours of South Africa. Instead of looking to score, he has instead only wanted to survive and protect his wicket.
But with the 33-year-old probably on his last tour of South Africa, the veteran is keen to break the shackles by reverting the pressure back on the home team’s bowling unit by expressing himself more a lot more.
“Basically I am preparing myself to be little more open than I was last time. I just want to go out there and whatever is thrown at me, play my A game and do well for my country. You have X-factors in your game which you can use when you get into a situation like that next time,” he explained.
Like their South African counterparts, India have yet to settle on a final XI for tomorrow. The major debate actually surrounds who will walk out with Vijay to face up to Morné Morkel, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada and Co.
Lokesh Rahul had the inside lane for the series opener after Shikhar Dhawan struggled with an ankle injury in the build-up. But the left-hander has now recovered fully after participating in both net sessions during the past couple of days at Newlands.
“I am not sure about the playing 11, but he (Dhawan) is fit and has declared himself fit so it is good for us going into this Test match. Hopefully it is a good headache for the captain and the management,” Vijay said.
India have, though, further fitness concerns. Left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja has been suffering from a “viral illness” for the past two days.
According to a BCCI statement, the Indian medical team, in consultation with the local medical team, has decided that Jadeja will be taken to a hospital for treatment and expects him to fully recover in the next 48 hours.
A decision on his availability for selection for the opening Test will be taken on the morning of the match.
Prior to his illness, Jadeja, who is the World’s No 3-ranked Test bowler, was already though facing a battle to be selected for the first Test.
With the tourists unlikely to play two spinners like they do on the subcontinent, it was understood that Ravichandran Ashwin was ahead in the queue for the solitary spinner’s spot.