The best thing that has happened with the introduction of the ICC World Test Championships has been the elimination of dead rubbers in a bilateral Test series. In the past, without the World Test Championship, teams would have experimented and gotten in new talent but in Virat Kohli's team, there seems to be some stability when it comes to the squad. One or two minor changes might take place depending on the conditions but so far, Kohli has demonstrated a ruthlessness in the captaincy and that has boosted the batting and the bowling. Heading into the third Test at the JSCA stadium in Ranchi, it is hard to believe that India might not win the series 3-0.
Consider the situation for South Africa. Aiden Markram punched his way out of the India tour with a fractured wrist. Keshav Maharaj has been ruled out. The top order has been a failure while the lower order have performed better. Even the toss has not gone in favour of Faf du Plessis, who stated that he might send someone else for the toss in Ranchi. "Probably we will change... send someone else to the toss tomorrow. I can give you that... because my records so far has not been great," du Plessis joked.
The joke had a deeper meaning. Winning the toss and batting first has been the mantra for the side to establish dominance in the series. In Vizag and Pune, India won important tosses and it allowed the batsmen to score big centuries and give their bowlers time to take 20 wickets. The likes of Rohit Sharma, Mayank Agarwal, Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane have all chipped in at vital times. Agarwal, with a double and a century as well as Kohli, fresh from a record 254* in Pune, have demoralised the Proteas bowlers.
Even with the ball, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja as well as the Indian pacers have been far more potent than the South Africans, who have not dismissed the entire Indian team even once in the series. Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma have complimented Jadeja and Ashwin. With such a settled combination, India are favorites heading into the Ranchi Test.
Du Plessis had said the pitch looks a little bit drier and crustier so first innings runs will be vital. This could be an indication that Kuldeep Yadav might come into the side. The chinaman bowler was seen making full use of the optional practice session in Ranchi and it will be interesting to see how Kohli uses the combination. Will India play three spinners and rest Umesh Yadav, who had a good Test in Pune or will they play with only one pacer and three spinners? Kohli's problem of plenty is the only thing which he has to get right in Ranchi.
With their senior-most spinner Keshav Maharaj also ruled out, South Africa will find it tougher to stop the Indian juggernaut. They might be tempted to get Lungi Ngidi in. George Linde is all set to make his Test debut but the onus will be on the top-order, especially Theunis de Bruyn, Dean Elgar, Temba Bavuma and Du Plessis to bat responsibly.
India: Virat Kohli (c), Mayank Agarwal, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (vc), Hanuma Vihari, Wriddhiman Saha, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Shubman Gill.
South Africa: Faf du Plessis (c), Temba Bavuma (vc), Theunis de Bruyn, Quinton de Kock, Dean Elgar, Zubayr Hamza, George Linde, Senuran Muthusamy, Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje, Vernon Philander, Dane Piedt, Kagiso Rabada, Rudi Second
Weather and stats
The Ranchi Test was supposed to be the second Test but was rescheduled following the Durga Puja celebrations. In the lead-up, there have been rains but it is expected to be clear on match days. This is the second time Ranchi will host a Test, with the first match between India and Australia in 2017 ending in a thrilling draw. However, with low attendances forecast for most of the days, it could be a sorry sight to see the match being played out in front of empty stands.