India's new-age opening batsmen Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay looked like rabbits caught in the headlights as South Africa's quick bowlers repeatedly troubled them with pace and bounce in the first session of the first Test at the Wanderers in Johannesburg. India decided to bat first after skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni won the toss. It was a prudent decision on a firm deck that normally produces over 300 runs in the first innings but India's abysmal average by openers on foreign tours continued. Dhawan and Vijay, who have been prolific scorers in Indian conditions, found life on a fast lane difficult to handle as Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel ran in hard and hurled the cherry at an average speed of 140 kmph. Dhawan was bounced out by the world's No. 1 bowler Steyn for 13 while Morkel got Vijay to edge a ball that moved away after pitching. The right-hander from Tamil Nadu scored 6. (Click here for more on India's tour of South Africa)
The Indian openers looked in great discomfort from the very first ball as the South Africans went in with a definite gameplan. They bowled at the batsmen's rib-cage and the back-of-length deliveries left the openers with a prayer on their lips. Normally an aggressive personality, Dhawan displayed some patience till Steyn repeatedly attacked him with body-line length. The fourth straight bouncer paid dividends as Dhawan mistimed a hook and was caught at deep fine leg. It was a perfect set-piece by the Proteas. (Scorecard)
After Dhawan left in the ninth over, Vijay perished in the 16th and India were reduced to 24 for two, a score that definitely put the middle-order under pressure. The failure of the openers also underlined India's poor opening record overseas. India's average opening stand in away Tests since January 2011 has been a paltry 15.96 (in 25 innings). The average opening stand in home Tests during the same period is 58.45 (over 24 innings). No wonder the critics call the Indians "tigers at home and lambs abroad." (Live Blog)
After India won the ICC Champions Trophy in England in June this year and went on to win six ODI series on-the-trot, many saw the core of India's future in the likes of Dhawan, Vijay, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma. India toyed with the West Indies at home in November but former skipper Sourav Ganguly warned that it was too early to predict the true character of Dhoni's new-age boys.
"The real test lies overseas as India will be on the road for 15 months. Let them score the runs in South Africa, New Zealand and England," said Ganguly. India are playing a series overseas after more than 22 months.
India's reluctance to play a proper series - the South Africa tour was heavily curtailed due to a cold war between BCCI and Cricket South Africa officials - is definitely impacting the Indians. Caught under-prepared on South African conditions, India lost the ODI series. After the Indians lost two days of practice when their tour game was washed out at Benoni last week, Dhawan and Vijay looked at sea on Day 1 of the first Test on Tuesday. It's up to Virat Kohli now. He has come in at No. 4, a position that belonged to Sachin Tendulkar for well over two decades. Kohli, not in the best of form, has big shoes to fill and has the credentials to turn things around for India at the Wanderers. Apart from Dhoni, who has a century in Faisalabad, Kohli is the only one to score a Test hundred in Adelaide where conditions are akin to the Bull Ring. At lunch, India were 70 for two wickets. Kohli, looking good on a well-timed 32, and Cheteshwar Pujara on a patient 16, added 46 for the third wicket.