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Form vs Home Ground Advantage as India Face The Proteas

While the South African international cricket summer officially begins at the end of December, it is at the start of January when the real action gets under way with the first Proteas Test of three against India starting in Cape Town.

India comes to the Rainbow Nation on the back of NINE consecutive Test series victories including the 3-0 hammering of the Proteas in late 2015 and early 2016. In that time, Virat Kohli’s men have lost just two of 30 Tests, winning 21 of them. The 2011 World Cup Champions are unquestionably the top Test team in the world, still a number of bookies are giving good odds on the South Africa and India Test series, Bet365 and Betfair have surprisingly good odds on a South African win as do Sportnation, review here, a newly launched betting site which has been showing up prominently on the odds comparison sites.

Their foe, in the New Year, is second in the official Test team rankings but by some distance. In the same period of Indian dominance, the Proteas have played eight Test series – winning five of them including an impressive triumph in Australia but have also been soundly beaten by their incoming visitors and twice home and away by England. South Africa’s 25 Test win percentage in that time is just 44% compared to India’s 70%.

These statistics bare grim reading for home fans but consider: Only three of India’s nine series wins have been outside of India. Their match-win-percentage in those trio of series is still 70% but those wins have come against Sri Lanka twice and the Windies once, with both of those countries producing conditions that are not far off those in India itself.

In places that sport conditions like India will face this Southern Hemisphere summer (i.e. SA, Australia, New Zealand and England), India have lost six of their last seven series dating back to their 1-1 draw with January’s opponents back at the end of 2010 beginning of 2011. Only England (twice) and the Aussies (five times) have beaten South Africa in South Africa in the Proteas’ post isolation era, showcasing the scale of the task that awaits India when they arrive in the Rainbow Nation.

The returns to Test action of a pair of the sports giants, AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn (who can reform arguably the most complete bowling unit besides that of Australia – with Vernon Philander, Morné Morkel, Kagiso Rabada and Keshav Maharaj), and the no-nonsense attitude of skipper Faf du Plessis and new coach Ottis Gibson and India’s task becomes that much harder.

In their skipper Virat Kohli (currently the number two Test batsman in the world), away-from-India run machine Ajinkya Rahane, spin wizard Ravichandran Ashwin and their most balanced fast bowling attack on any tour of South Africa, India have fire to fight with fire.

On current form the tourists could not be better placed to achieve a first Test series victory in South Africa especially when one considers the fragile state of du Plessis’ team following a resounding series defeat in England. The thumping of Bangladesh on home soil by Gibson’s South Africa does not cover-up the potential flaws that exist in Test cricket’s number two outfit.

England revealed the following: An unsettled opening pair; a potentially soft middle order, a lack of determination to fight in the tail; fielding standards that have slipped alarmingly and a new generation of bowlers (Kagiso Rabada apart) who are yet to stamp their authority on crickets most demanding format.

It may have been in India but contrast that information with how Virat’s troops deconstructed England in their own series against the Three Lions in the last South African summer, and it certainly ups the intrigue for the series.

Has Gibson and his new management team had enough time to address some, if not all, of South Africa’s flaws? Can AB and the Phalaborwa Express show the world that they are not spent forces in Test cricket? Will India’s lack of cricket over the last three years at venues with fast, bouncy tracks, come back to haunt them or will King Kohli oversee India’s transition from subcontinent-marvels to becoming one of Test Cricket’s complete teams?

All will become clear when the teams walk to the middle of Newlands on January 5th 2018.

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