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Cricket: African safari begins soon; opportunity for young guns to blaze

The Indian cricket team’s forthcoming tour of South Africa will be a significant one for many players. A few of the trusted hands who have taken Indian cricket to dizzy heights are nearing the end of their careers. They will have to be replaced by equally adept and skillful players who must be found. The tour of South Africa will therefore be a trial by fire for those who wish to cement their places in the Indian side of the future.

Head Coach Rahul Dravid is there

The Indian team will be playing in three T20 internationals between 10th December to 14th December, followed by three ODI matches between 17th December to 21st December, and then two Test matches between 26th December 2023 and 7th January 2024.

The host side has a bunch of excellent fast bowlers in Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi and the 6 feet 9 inches tall Marco Jansen who are likely to revel on the fast pitches. Batting against these quick bowlers on bouncy tracks will not be an easy task. But now it is the opportune time for India’s batters to fight and prove themselves on unfamiliar ground. They will no longer have the flat batting pitches of India to help them in compiling big scores.

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Young players must seize opening

From India’s point of view, the primary objective will be to chalk up convincing victories in all formats. So it will be an ideal opportunity for Shubman Gill, Ruturaj Gaikwad and Yashasvi Jaiswal to display their mettle. If they succeed in scoring a century or two, then it will be an encouraging sign for the future of Indian cricket. Others like Prasidh Krishna and Rinku Singh will also be in action. For the sake of Indian cricket, one hopes that they will be successful in a significant way.

On the other hand, the Indian pacers such as Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Jasprit Bumrah, Arshdeep Singh, and Shardul Thakur should be helped by the conditions and they must utilise this occasion to pick up a bagful of wickets.

For the ODIs and T20 matches, South Africa has named the experienced Aiden Markram as the captain. Although only 29 years of age, Aiden has had wide-ranging experience of playing in different conditions. He has played in 35 Test matches, 63 ODI matches, and 37 T20 matches upholding a good record. He has scored centuries in Tests as well as ODI matches.

Also included in the South African team is Keshav Maharaj, a player of Indian origin who has an interesting background. His great-grandfather lived in Sultanpur in Uttar Pradesh but migrated to South Africa in 1874. Ever since then, the family has lived in South Africa. Keshav is a deceptive spin bowler and has mastery over all the tricks of his trade. Indian batters will have to be watchful while dealing with him.

Hyderabad’s Tilak Varma

In the white ball competitions, it is a golden chance for Hyderabad’s Tilak Varma to show the national selectors that their faith in him was not misplaced. The 21-year-old has huge potential which has been guided along the right lines by his capable coach Salam Bayash. Tilak made his first-class debut for Hyderabad in the Ranji trophy season of 2018-2019 and his T20 debut for Hyderabad in 2019. In the IPL he has played for Mumbai Indians and done a good job.

In 2019, Tilak was named in India’s squad for the 2020 Under 19 cricket World Cup. He made his T20I debut against the West Indies on 3rd August 2023. In the first match of the series, he top-scored for India with 39 off just 22 deliveries.

Later he scored the first fifty of his international career in the second T20 match played against the West Indies. So he is poised on the threshold of a great career and he should use the experience in South Africa to further polish his skills. Hyderabad cricket fans will no doubt be hoping that they will see some big knocks and fireworks from this talented youngster during this tour of South Africa.