India’s long winning streak in Test cricket is under threat in a quick-fire three-match series against South Africa this month, where their status as the top-ranked nation in the format faces a stiff examination.
Virat Kohli’s side have won nine successive series to climb to the top of the International Cricket Council’s rankings but most of the success has come on batting friendly wickets.
South Africa are expected to prepare ‘green top’ wickets for the Tests in Cape Town, Pretoria and Johannesburg, all squeezed into January, to hand India an unfamiliar and difficult challenge.
India have traditionally struggled against the home bowling attack with just two victories in 17 previous Tests on tour in South Africa.
But while past touring sides have crumbled under the barrage of pace, this is an experienced India squad, 13 of whom have previously toured South Africa and will know what to expect.
“All I can say is the team is up for the challenge,” said India coach Ravi Shastri ahead of the first Test at Newlands, which starts on Friday.
“If you asked me four years ago, I would have said no. But this team has gained in experience,” he added.
“The beauty of this team is it does not matter who opposition it is. For us every game is a home game. Even this is a home game for us at Newlands. You see the pitch, you adapt. No excuses, no complaints. Tomorrow you go to England and it might be seaming all over the place. You come to India it might be turning. If you want to be rated as a side, you adapt to the conditions. It’s as simple as that.”
South Africa, who are second in the ICC Test rankings, are at full strength for the first time in almost two years as AB de Villiers returns from a lengthy absence from the first class game. The bowling department is also reinforced by the return from injury of Dale Steyn and his long-time new ball partner Vernon Philander.
The three-Test series is followed by six One Day Internationals and three Twenty20 clashes between the two countries through to the end of February.