India will sorely miss Tendulkar during the Test series, says Morne Morkel

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“We need to be on the money from Wednesday itself, otherwise they can score quickly and at [the] Wanderers”

South Africa pace bowler Morne Morkel has announced that India will sorely miss their iconic batsman Sachin Tendulkar during the upcoming two-Test series, which gets underway on December 18 in Johannesburg.

Tendulkar announced his retirement from international cricket last month after playing in his 200th Test, which came against the West Indies in his hometown of Mumbai.

Morkel noted that it would be interesting to see how India’s younger and more inexperienced batsmen cope against South Africa’s world-class pace attack.

“Sachin was a batsman who could bat for a long time,” Morkel said. “And he put the bowlers and the opposition under pressure by batting for a long time. He was the rock for their batting. He could bat with the top-order and the middle order both.

“These young Indian batsmen are quality players, but we can clearly see from the ODI series that they are attacking batsmen who like to come at the bowling. It will be interesting to see how they go about this.”

However, despite Tendulkar having bid the game farewell after 24 years, Morkel stated that South Africa will not underestimate India’s younger talents as they have already showcased what they are capable of.

“Like I said, they are all very quality guys,” Morkel said. “Rohit Sharma has been scoring runs off late and Cheteshwar Pujara can bat for time at number three. Even Ravichandran Aswhin averages 40 at the back-end of their line-up. So we need to make use of the early morning conditions with the new ball. We need to be on the money from Wednesday itself, otherwise they can score quickly and at [the] Wanderers, sometimes it can be a high scoring game.”

Morkel added that India vice-captain Virat Kohli has some “big boots to fill” after he took over Tendulkar’s spot on the Test roster.

“Virat has done well in Australia and scored some runs when India toured there last,” Morkel said. “He is a quality player. But he is obviously going to slot into Sachin’s role and he has got some big boots to fill. He can do it very well, don’t take me wrong, but it is going to be a testing time for him at number four.”

Morkel also admitted that South Africa have an advantage heading into the Test series, especially since India failed to play a single ball in their warm-up match against the South African Invitational XI in Benoni due to heavy rain.

“When I heard the news that they did not have even a ball at Benoni, I felt it will definitely be something in our favour,” he said. “Because the pitch at Benoni can also be a bit tricky at times. I think that could have been good practice for them. So it is definitely some sort of bonus for us that they were stuck to indoor nets or open net-practice. Out there in the middle, it’s a completely different ball game.”

However, the lanky pace bowler pointed out that the Proteas cannot “get too carried away” with their recent 2-0 ODI win.

Speaking about the pitch in Johannesburg, Morkel noted that “it has always been bouncy and quick”, but added that if South Africa fail to take early wickets, then India’s batsmen could end up dominating the match.

“The nature of the Wanderers’ pitch is that is has always been bouncy and quick,” Morkel said. “It can be a high scoring game, if the batsmen get in. So the margins for bowlers are definitely a bit smaller here, because of the ball coming onto the wicket and the outfield here.

“It is going to be crucial how we use the pace and bounce. But we need not to get too carried away. The Indian bowlers struggled to find the right lengths in the first ODI and it takes some time to adapt to the conditions here. So we need to be smart about using the conditions as well.”

India’s last Test victory against the Proteas came all the way back in 2006, but Morkel stated that many things have changed since then, like the fact that India no longer have senior batsmen such as Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman in their side.

“2006 was a long time ago,” Morkel added. “We can only think about the current scenario and for South Africa, it is about getting a good start. We were a bit slow against Pakistan and that cost us a bit. For India, a lot has changed. They have no Rahul Dravid, no Tendulkar, no batsmen who can really build an innings. So it’s a completely different ball game.”

Morkel also took the opportunity to say that he had no problems with being South Africa’s back-up bowler after Vernon Philander took over his opening partnership with Dale Steyn.

“My partnership with Dale is long gone,” Morkel admitted. “Vernon and Dale are the new guys and I’ve made peace with that. I am not going to wear the yellow jersey anymore.

“Those guys have been unbelievable for the team.”

Just in this year alone, Steyn and Philander have combined to take 69 Test wickets.

Steyn’s 41 have come at an outstanding average of 14.36, while Philander’s 28 comes at a superb average of 16.35.

In comparison, Morkel has only managed to claim 13 wickets at an average of 30.69.

But, he believes he plays just as important of a role as Steyn and Philander in South Africa’s Test matches.

Since Morkel is extremely lanky, his job is to soften the batsmen up with a barrage of short-pitched deliveries and bouncers, while also building pressure on the opposition by restricting the batsmen from scoring any runs.

Morkel has done just that as he only concedes 1.52 runs an over this year, making him South Africa’s most economical bowler by far.

Despite India currently being one of the most toughest opponents in international cricket, Morkel’s philosophy when comes to bowling still remains the same.

“It doesnt matter who you play against or where, the top of off stump and the odd bouncer is a winning combination,” he said.

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