With his frontline pacers Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi hitting the nets ahead of the ‘Boxing Day’ Test, South Africa head coach Shukri Conrad on Saturday expressed confidence that India won’t be able to breach their ‘Final Frontier’ in the upcoming series. Rabada was rested from the white ball leg as he was nursing a heel niggle while Ngidi pulled out after sustaining a left ankle injury ahead of the T20Is. On Saturday afternoon though, Rabada and Ngidi bowled full tilt at the centre training wicket of the Supersport Park and facing them was Dean Elgar, who is playing in his last series. The Centurion track is a pacer’s dream although India did get the better of South Africa last time around. The head coach would want his lethal weapons to fire on all cylinders.
“They will be fresh and firing (Rabada and Ngidi). I am always a firm believer of freshness,” said Conrad ahead of the team’s training session.
Both are coming into the game without match time but the coach isn’t overtly worried.
“It would have been ideal had they got some mileage in the legs by playing first-class matches but that’s life. You have got to find a way. But I am not bothered that they will be undercooked for the game.
“KG (Rabada) and Lungi are still in the 15-member squad and available for selection. We will make that decision tomorrow. Hopefully, tomorrow morning we will have a full squad of 15 to select from,” the coach said.
Will make it tough for India
The 56-year-old, one in the long line of Proteas coaches without a big cricketing pedigree, is aware that India haven’t won any Test series in eight attempts here, starting from 1992.
However, this is the first time that India are playing in a two-Test series in this country. Conrad expected it to be a lengthier one.
“I would be lying if I say we have not taken cognizance of that. We know what history tells us. If it was ever possible to make the series ever bigger then that makes it even bigger that India have never won a Test series here,” the former Transvaal first-class cricketer said.
“We certainly want to hold that proud record and make sure it doesn’t happen.” He believes that his men can maintain that record of not losing a Test series in their own backyard.
“India is the biggest series that we are going to play this year. It has been dubbed as the final frontier back in India and we are going to do our best to make sure that they don’t conquer the final frontier.” There were 14 out of 15 members sweating it out and even former KKR and RCB all-rounder David Wiese, who plays international cricket for Namibia, was seen bowling to India’s nemesis Keegan Peterson in the main nets.
Young guns Gerald Coetzee and Nandre Burger were seen going flat out while Marco Jansen looked sharp.
Among top Indian batters over 31 years, only Virat Kohli has an average of 50 in Test matches in South Africa over three tours, and that statistic isn’t lost on Conrad.
“If there are top five in world cricket at the moment then Virat Kohli sits at number one. That goes without saying that Virat is going to be a prized wicket wherever he plays in the world. He will be a prized wicket even when he is 50.
“India have got a quality batting lineup. Rohit Sharma, the young Shubman Gill and there is quality bursting through but we have a quality bowling lineup.”
The Dean Elgar question
Dean Elgar will finish a good career at 86 Test matches, which includes the upcoming two against India. The former Proteas skipper, who has 5146 runs with 13 hundreds and an average of just under 38, isn’t exactly finding motivation to continue playing, having played just four Tests in a single year.
Elgar will continue playing first class cricket though.
The only time the head coach looked a bit uncomfortable was while answering questions on local player Elgar’s retirement.
“It wasn’t because we just had four Test matches and Dean decided to retire. It was a conversation that Dean and I had. The fact that we don’t play a lot of Test matches is part of the reason that we arrived at the decision that we arrived at.” However, he was surprised that South African media knew that he and Elgar had a conversation on the latter’s future.
“The conversation and outcome have been exactly what Dean and I had discussed. It was surprising to me that a certain journalist had the wind of it. But no surprise to me that Dean has decided to retire against India,” the coach said.
Topics mentioned in this article