South Africa captain Dean Elgar feels the Indian pace attack has improved immensely, especially overseas, and Jasprit Bumrah is best placed to exploit the “spicy” conditions in the rainbow nation.
India, who lost the series 1-2 back in 2018, are primed for their maiden Test series win in South Africa.
The home team also lacks in experience with the likes AB de Villiers, Dale Steyn, Faf Du Plessis, Hashim Amla and Vernon Philander, who were all part of the 2018 series, retired from the game.
Bumrah hade made his Test debut in that series and has gone on to become one of the leading bowlers in international cricket.
In a virtual media interaction, Elgar acknowledged the Bumrah threat but said the whole Indian attack will be tough to face.
“He (Bumrah) is a world class bowler. If there is one bowler who can exploit South African conditions pretty well, it would be him. But again, we don’t focus on one guy. India as a whole is a pretty, pretty good side.
“They’ve been a pretty good side for the last two to three years and have toured very well of late,” said Elgar, who was the only one alongside Virat Kohli to average more than 40 in the 2018 series.
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Elgar said senior bowler R Ashwin has not had too much success in South Africa but he remains one of the best spinners in world cricket.
South Africa had their training at the Wanderers till Tuesday while the Indians trained in Centurion.
“India has been an immensely improved bowling line up especially playing away from home as well. We’re very mindful of what we’re going to be up against.
“Being in South Africa I would like to think we’re a lot more accustomed to our home conditions. So I rather be sitting here knowing that than possibly sitting in Indian dressing room knowing that they have to face our bowlers.”
South Africa have been dealt a big blow ahead of the series opener with Anrich Nortje being ruled out due to injury. Kagiso Rabada will lead the attack in the company of Duanne Oliver, who has returned to play for South Africa after the end of Kolpak deal in the UK, and Lungi Ngidi.
Elgar hopes the weather will clear up ahead of the first Test and expects pitches to have enough spice for the bowlers.
“There’s always a little bit of spice in South African wickets, especially in highveld region. I wouldn’t see too much change (from last series). If you apply yourself as a batter, if you nail down your skills and your disciplines, you can really score runs in Centurion.
“Again, with the ball in hand you can exploit the conditions if you got pace and bounce and if you got some skill and be a little patient from a bowling point of view,” he said when asked about the match up of both the pace attacks.
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Talking about the inexperience in the batting line-up, he said: “Professional cricket is about taking your opportunities and making the position your own…if they don’t, there’ll be other guys knocking on the door.
“But it’s always going to be tough playing against the best side in the world. They’ve got a very good bowling lineup and we are aware of it.”
On the return of Oliver, who had quit South Africa to play county cricket in the UK, said he has been received well by the players.
“There’s no bad feelings about what’s happened in the past. I want to win cricket matches and series for South Africa. I’m pretty sure I’ve got 100% backing when it comes to that.
“So, it’s nice to have him back. He’s learned a lot playing in the UK. And so he’s bringing a lot of knowledge and experience back into the change, which is something that we need at the moment.
“He is a match-winner and if he can win cricket matches for us I’m all for having him back.”
Elgar is also disappointed that the series will be played in front of empty stands with the rise in COVID-19 cases in South Africa following the emergence of Omicron variant.
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