India boost a strong batting line-up in front of a charged up Proteas bowling squad.
India and South Africa face off in the longest format of the game after a tied T20I series. The last time these two met, we had a terrific Test series that saw India grit it out to lose by 1-2 eventually. In 2015 in India, the series was more lopsided with South Africa struggling against India's spinners. With another series upon us here are a few players to keep your eyes on.
Rohit Sharma (India)
Pushed to open the innings after a disastrous run of form from KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma will have one final chance to impress in whites. He has a fine average overall in Test cricket but that's on the back of runs at home with his returns away from India being way below par. In the five home Tests India play this season, Rohit will be banked upon to give Virender Sehwag-like starts and emulate his own ODI performances from the top. If he does well in this home season, an opening berth in the away series in New Zealand beckons by the end of this year.
Vernon Philander (South Africa)
The veteran South African bowler will spearhead the side alongside Kagiso Rabada and will be a key figure in the side and not just for his bowling. His lower order batting has been as effective and South Africa will need him to lengthen an inexperienced batting line-up. With the ball, Philander's nagging lengths and new ball spells will be vital for the Proteas to get early breakthroughs into a strong Indian batting line-up.
Virat Kohli (India)
The Indian skipper had a forgettable World Cup and a decent tour of the Caribbean following that. But with Steven Smith back and overtaking him in the rankings, the Indian skipper needs a purple patch like in the long 2016 home season to recapture his numbers. Against a weakened South African outfit that does not have Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel or Kyle Abbott, Kohli will look to make a massive impact.
Keshav Maharaj (South Africa)
Maharaj has picked up wickets in South Africa, England, New Zealand and Australia, places where a spinner does not usually thrive. In Sri Lanka last year, he returned with the best haul by a South African since readmission in 1992 - a stunning 9/129 at Colombo (SSC). A crucial member in the side already after 25 Tests, Maharaj will be key for the Proteas as they look to attack India with their own strength - spin. Can he get on top of the likes of Pujara and Kohli, though?
Cheteshwar Pujara (India)
The strudy Indian middle-order batsman is a huge draw in Test matches and India's replacement for the ever reliable Rahul Dravid. Pujara has been an outstanding batsman at home in Test matches, averaging over 60 over the course of his career and will be a key player for the Indians this series as they look to thwart the Proteas with their batting might. He will come in at no 3 and will likely be a difficult batsman to remove for the visitors.
Ravichandran Ashwin (India)
In 2015 when South Africa toured India, Ashwin picked 31 wickets in three Test matches with a best of 7/66 at Nagpur. In five of the seven completed innings, Ashwin picked up four wickets or more. An incredibly consistent spinner at home, Ashwin has 20 of his 26 five-wicket hauls in India. After being left on the bench in the Test matches in the Caribbean Islands, Ashwin will have a point to prove in this series.
Featured image courtesy: AFP/ Randy Brooks