Time for India to right the wrongs of the past at Cape Town

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Time for India to right the wrongs of the past at Cape Town

10 Jan 2022 069 Views Yash Mittal

"When I took over as captain, we were No 7 in the world. We can't even relate to that reality anymore since we've been No 1 for so long."- Virat Kohli was at his candid best in a media interaction on Monday ahead of yet another legacy-defining Test for him and his No.1 ranked team.

As a skipper, Kohli had set out a vision for his side when he took over the reins of the Indian Test team from MS Dhoni during the 2014/15 tour of Australia.

He has stayed true to his vision thus far. Under him, India rose from being ranked No.7 in the world to becoming the best team in the longest format of the game within a space of 1.5 years. They maintained their numero-uno spot for 44 months in a row and after losing it to Australia and New Zealand for a short period, they are back where they belong.

Speaking of being back, Kohli's team is back to the venue where it all started for them as far as their journey to becoming the best traveling side in the world is concerned: Newlands, Cape Town.

Surrounded by scenic snow caps and mountains, the Newlands Cricket Ground is one of the most picturesque venues in the world and it was at this place, four years ago that Team India started their overseas sojourn.

It did not start well as the tourists lost a closely connected encounter by 72 runs with a freak masquerading as a cricketer in AB de Villiers proving to be the difference between the two sides.

There will be no AB de Villiers this time around, nor will there be a certain Vernon Philander, who, it will not be a stretch to say, loved bowling at Newlands.

However, just as South Africa showed in the last game at the Wanderers, they are a team that cannot be taken lightly, especially in their den.

The gutsy Dean Elgar led the way for the Proteas in Johannesburg to remind the Indians that they would have to wait at least till Cape Town to notch up their maiden series win in the rainbow nation.

But will India win at Cape Town and finally break the jinx?

India have never won at Newlands but it's not that they have been rolled over every time they come here.

In fact, it is one venue where the tourists have constantly played well since the turn of the century but they just never have been able to press home the advantage.

Think back to 2007. India under the leadership of Rahul Dravid were in a similar situation. They had won in Johannesburg but lost the following Test in Durban to set up a decider in Cape Town.

They had a fairytale start to the decision as Wasim Jaffer (116) and Dinesh Karthik (63) added 153 runs for the first wicket. What could go around after you have rollicked your way to 0/153 in an overseas Test?

Well, loads!

India went on to take a 41-run lead after the culmination of the first innings but once again, their batting proved to be their undoing in the second essay as they got knocked over for a mere 169.

A target of 211 in the fourth innings could have proved to be a tricky one as gritty contributions from skipper Graeme Smith (55), Shaun Pollock (37), Jacques Kallis (32) and Ashwell Prince (38*) broke India's dream of winning their maiden series in South Africa.

Think back to January 2011 when India returned to Newlands to right the wrongs of 2007 but were once again denied glory from Jacques Kallis despite a stellar hundred by Sachin Tendulkar and a seven-wicket haul by Harbhajan Singh.

South Africa were leading by just 128 runs when their sixth second innings wicket fell in the form of Ashwell Prince. But a majestic 109* by Kallis and handy contributions from the lower-order ensured India had to fight for a draw on the final day.

11 years later, since that heartbreak and 4 years since they kicked off their overseas sojourn, the upcoming five days will serve as a moment of truth for Kohli's men as they aim to add another glorious chapter to their already rich legacy.

Can they do it? Of course they can. Will they do it? It will once again be determined by how their batsmen fare.

Yash Mittal

Bharat Army Cricket Writer

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