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Virat, Ashwin will be key for India in Tests: Graeme Pollock

South African great Graeme Pollock tells Taus Rizvi that the hosts won’t have it easy against South Africans as AB & Co have peaked at the right time

Graeme Pollock
Graeme Pollock
How do you see the forthcoming Test battle between India and South Africa?
I think South Africa are pretty positive after having won the T20s and the ODIs. India need to play quite a lot better to beat the South Africans. The most important thing is that the Indian attack was very ordinary in the ODIs and they missed R Ashwin big time. He is going to be the key guy.

What are your predictions for the series?
South Africa had some nice time in India as they have reached the peak. At the moment they have three-four batsman who have peaked at the right time and playing pretty well. They haven’t been under that much pressure. They have a couple of left-handers, too, who may struggle against Ashwin though. I think SA have a good opportunity. MS Dhoni has retired recently and they will miss him. Key guys like Virat Kohli, probably, can hold it together for India. He is a special player and very important for your country.

How do you rate the Indian team under Virat Kohli?
I think they have been disappointing. The Indians used to have (not many years ago) two or three class players like Sachin (Tendulkar), (Virender) Sehwag, (Rahul) Dravid and then (VVS) Laxman to bat at number five or six. You can’t replace those people. The batting top order has to play exceptionally well. Also, in bowling, I don’t know who is going to lead the new ball attack against a strong South African top-order. They have to find some one who can produce the goods against AB de Villiers & Co. Still there are some two or three seriously good players and they have to start playing well and work really hard.

What do you have to say about the Indian batting line-up?
The Indians will be missing the old guys. But there are some good young players they have seen over the year or two, who have come to the fore. Indian cricket in the last five years made progress and the players must be confident about doing well in the coming series. It is going to be a really good series as South Africa is playing some good cricket.

What will India need to do to beat South Africa?
They have got to get everything right. Starting from basics to the fielding. They have not been up to the mark as far as fielding is concerned as seen in the ODIs. They dropped catches. They will have to take catches in the slips and everything is on offer. You can’t give extra opportunities to players like Hashim Amla or AB de Villiers. You have to contain runs and take charge and keep attacking. They should look to give away minimum runs and try to put build more pressure.

Indians will be planning turning tracks, do you think SA will have a plan for that?
I think they are a pretty solid team. AB and guys are doing well for some time around. The batsmen are getting runs. The bowlers Dale Steyn and Morne (Morkel) have bowled with fire and aggression in the ODIs. The new chap Kagiso Rabada is going to play a part like he did in the ODIs. He is tall, deceptive and gets good bounce. He is going to be seen on quite a few occasions. If Rabada bowls short, the Indian guys will be in trouble.

Who will be the key players for India?
I don’t think there are many batsmen in the Indian team who have made runs of late in Tests and are confident. However, the key guys are two players — Kohli and Ashwin. If those two play well, India can be very difficult to beat. Contribution of Ashwin will be the key.

How much has Kohli impressed you?
He has been good, I think, in Test format as well as other formats. I think he has got his basics and has played within himself. He has good knowledge of the game. He needs a little bit of experience. There are some good experienced guys in the dressing room who will give him good advice which will help him.

How can the Indians stop AB de Villiers?
It’s really difficult. He has got the technique and a good track record against them. He spends a lot of time in the middle and that is the problem that India is going to have. Faf du Plessis, too, is is doing well. AB and top six, all can get 100. Ashwin becomes a major guy.

How important is this series as far as Test cricket is concerned?
The recent series — 50 overs and T20 have been really wonderful. Indians didn’t play all that well though. They will gather themselves for the Tests and have a side to produce good results. It is going to be a wonderful Test series. We need Test cricket to survive. England and Australia’s Ashes Test series was brilliant. To maintain interest in Test cricket, we need this series to be a fighting affair. Good luck to both the teams. May the best team win.