Exclusive | South Africa Have Sufficient Quality, it Will be a Challenging Tour For India: Wasim Jaffer

Wasim Jaffer is one among the nine Indian batters who have made an impression on tours to South Africa with a three-figure knock. Sachin Tendulkar leads the numbers with five centuries from 15 matches played in the rainbow nation from 1992 to 2011; he is followed by Virat Kohli who has scored two. Those who have scored one century in South Africa are Pravin Amre, Kapil Dev, Mohammad Azharuddin, Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag, Jaffer and Cheteshwar Pujara.

Jaffer went to South Africa on the 2006-07 tour, played in three Tests and scored 185 runs at 30.83, the average boosted by his 116 in his penultimate innings at Newlands, Cape Town. After scores of 9 and 4 at The Wanderers, Johannesburg, 26 and 28 at Kingsmead, Durban, Jaffer compiled a 244-ball 116 with fifteen hits to the hence. On a tour he virtually became fast bowler Makhaya Ntini’s bunny (he fell to the South African four out of six times), Jaffer faced the likes of Dale Styen, Ntini, Shaun Pollock, Jacques Kallis and left-arm seamer Paul Harris to score a century, the lone bright spot in a Test match India lost by five wickets.

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““We could have won the Cape Town Test and the series, but we did not bat well in the second innings. Obviously it (116 in the first innings) was one of my better knocks in Test cricket. I remember the pitch; it was very dry. It was like a subcontinent kind of pitch. It was not green. It started to

help the spinners after the third day. I have fond memories of scoring a century there. Getting runs against South Africa in South Africa is always special,” recalled the former India opener.

India have never won a Test series in South Africa. (Pic Credit: BCCI)

Talking to a few days before the three-Test series between the two countries opens at the Centurion on Boxing Day (December 26), Jaffer believes that the pitch conditions in South Africa have changed in character.

“”From what I have seen recently, the South African pitches have changed. When we went to South Africa (15 years ago), we got a horrible pitch at The Wanderers. There was water shortage there; that’s what we came to know of. But the overall situation has changed from even before we played there. There used to be pace and bounce. As a batter I would say that South Africa is a challenging place to play Test cricket. In fact, South Africa and England are the hardest place to score runs. That’s because of the lateral movement and the pace and bounce the fast bowlers get there. But as I said, the conditions have changed there lately. Sometimes you find too many cracks on the pitch and there’s a bit of variable bounce (up and down). I am really surprised that these things have been happening there.”

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Jaffer who has faced the South African fast bowlers in India and South Africa as well, believes that their mindset is the same. ““I think they always look to pitch the ball hard. That’s how they bowl all the time. You did not find many, apart from Vernon Philander, swing the ball; in recent times of course. They hit the deck hard, just like the Australian fast bowlers. They have pace and they try to get maximum out of the pitch. They are trained to bowl like that in South Africa. It’s always challenging to bat, when the conditions are tough.”

After his long stint with Mumbai, Jaffer, who helped Vidarbha win the Ranji Trophy and thereafter has chosen coaching first-class and IPL teams as a career option says that Kagiso Rabada is one of the best fast bowlers in business now. ““South Africa has a decent fast bowling attack, there is no doubt it (on Tuesday, CSA said that fast bowler Anrich Nortje has been ruled out of the series because of a recurring hit related injury). Rabada is one of the best. He is going to challenge the Indian batters. They have sufficient quality. There pace bowling will definitely challenge India. But their batting is not the same it was before. Nonetheless, it will be a challenging tour for India.”

Jaffer says it’s important to compete well in the first Test of any series and that South Africa is no different. India’s bowlers will keep their team in the game. The Indian fast bowling is very experienced now. Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammad Shami have a lot of experience. India has an all-round attack. I have been saying that if India scores 400 plus, it is more likely that it will win matches. Our bowling attack is first class. The challenge is for the batters to put scores on the board. That’s been the problem. In 2018, Virat was the only one who got the runs. The other batters need to step up. Now, India’s batting is more balanced in the top six. Rishabh (Pant) can change the game if he bats for one or one and a half hours. There are good players in the team; they have to contribute around Virat.”

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