TELFORD VICE, Mohali
ASTROLOGY matters in India, where even powerful politicians dare not do anything without consulting their preferred purveyor of predictions.
So, perhaps the Proteas should get in the guru queue with this list of questions: “Is JP Duminy over his hand injury? Will Morne Morkel’s quad hold up? How many spinners, and which spinners? And what’s up with Hash?”
The test series starts in Mohali on Thursday and, having taken the one-day and Twenty20 trophies off India, SA know they are near the top of their game.
But the XI they will take into the opening engagement of what could be their crowning glory if is far from settled.
Whether he is batting, bowling or in the field, Duminy is to SA’s team what reinforcing is to concrete: the sturdy stuff that holds it all together.
So much so that he was not risked in the tour match against a Board XI in Mumbai last week.
Russell Domingo sounded less than hopeful that Duminy would be in the mix on Thursday.
“It needs to heal properly because if something happens he could be out for a good period of time,” Domingo said.
No Duminy should mean a fifth cap for Temba Bavuma, who grafted hard for almost an hour for his 15 in Mumbai.
Morkel bowled five maidens for no reward on Friday and four overs in the nets on Saturday. Domingo said he had “felt it a little bit” after Friday’s play.
Morkel’s absence could lead to a test debut for Kagiso Rabada, who like Morkel also went wicketless but bowled with enough fire to catch the eye of a crowd that had learnt to chant his name by the end of the match.
But will SA have room for seam bowlers beyond Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander?
Asked whether the visitors would decide on “three pacemen and a spinner or three pacemen and two spinners”, a naughty gleam lit Domingo’s eyes: “It’s one of those options.”
The opinion that Mohali is among India’s faster pitches only complicates this conversation; more so seeing the wounded Indians are likely to prepare 22 yards of desert.
Another twist is that in the most recent test here, against Australia in March 2013, the spinners took 18 wickets to the quicks’ 15 – including a haul of 5/71 by Peter Siddle.
However, the slow men bowled almost two thirds of the total overs. And there were three of them in each attack.
So, go figure.
And what of Hashim Amla, who has scored two half-centuries, three hundreds and a double ton in his 10 previous test innings in India, but has scraped together just 128 runs in eight innings on this visit?
That gave Domingo the chance to proffer prediction: “All players go through periods where they are not as prolific as we’ve become accustomed to, but you know that with Hashim a big knock is around the corner.”
With a nod out the window, he added: “He’s back in the nets right now.”
So Amla was. He won’t believe in astrology but, in his inimitable way, he was shooting for the stars.