Top ranking at stake in India vs. SAfrica

NAGPUR, India — India’s claim to be the world’s leading test cricket nation will be put to the test by South Africa and a string of injuries in the series starting Saturday.

By (AP)

Published: Fri 5 Feb 2010, 11:44 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 2:29 AM

India dethroned South Africa to take the No. 1 slot on the International Cricket Council’s test rankings and are coming off the back of a predictably comfortable 2-0 series victory over neighbors Bangladesh.

India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni downplayed the importance of the top ranking.

“We are not bothered about the ranking,” Dhoni said Friday. “We have to play well and that is important to us.”

However, the hosts enter the series, beginning at Nagpur, without experienced batsmen Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh, both nursing the injuries they sustained against Bangladesh, while paceman Shanthakumaran Sreesanth is also injured.

Dravid and Singh’s absence, added to doubt over the availability of V.V.S. Laxman, means India’s usually formidable batting lineup could take a very new look, with S. Badrinath and Murali Vijay poised to get their chance.

“Laxman is a little uncertain for tomorrow’s match, all other players are all right,” Dhoni confirmed. “Injuries are beyond our control.”

South Africa also has its share of concerns, including taking on India on the subcontinent’s flatter pitches without a world-class spinner in the squad.

However most of the problems are off the field, with the coach and the entire selection panel having been dismissed in the lead-up to the tour.

Still, the Proteas can reclaim that No. 1 ranking if they win this series, although captain Graeme Smith was not making it a priority.

“India now holds the No. 1 ranking in tests in the world and it is a credit to the way they have played,” Smith said.

“But it is not an issue for us. We have come here to play good cricket. We know if we perform to our level we would be able to put India under lot of pressure.”

The visitors enter the first test off the back of a strong showing in a two-day warm-up match against a Board President’s XI.

South Africa’s attack bowled out the home team’s top six batsmen for 114 runs, with pacemen Morne Morkel and Wayne Parnell bagging three scalps each.

South Africa’s batting coach and former captain Kepler Wessels was enthused by the display.

“After a brilliant performance by the bowlers on the first day, the batsmen also came good on Wednesday. All the top batsmen got runs. And I am very happy with the effort.”

Of the 22 tests between the teams, South Africa have won 10 and India only five.

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