SA Coach Shukri Conrad Confidence in "Stopping" India as Rabada hits the net

South Africa head coach Shukri Conrad is confident that India will not be able to break the ‘Final Frontier’ in their Test history, even with his frontline pacers Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi hitting the nets ahead of the ‘Boxing Day’ Test. Rabada was rested from the white ball leg as he nursed a heel niggle, while Ngidi dropped out after picking up a left ankle injury ahead of the T20Is. On Saturday afternoon, Rabada and Nigidi were out there bowling at full tilt at the center practice wicket at Supersport Park, facing Dean Elgar, the man playing his last series.

The Centurion track is a pacer’s dream, although India got the better of South Africa last time. But the head coach wanted his lethal weapons firing on all cylinders.

“They will be fresh and on fire (Rabada and Ngidi). I’m always a firm believer in freshness,” Conrad said ahead of the team’s practice on the day.

Both enter the game without playing time, but the coach is not obviously bothered.

“It would have been ideal if they had got some mileage in their legs playing first-class games, but that’s life. You have to find a way. But I’m not bothered by them being undercooked for the game.

“KG (Rabada) and Lungi are still in the 15-man squad and available for selection. We will take that decision tomorrow. Hopefully by tomorrow morning we will have a full squad of 15 to choose from,” the coach said.

Will make it difficult for India. The 56-year-old, one in a long line of Proteas coaches without a major cricket pedigree, is aware that India have not won a Test series in eight attempts, starting in 1992.

However, this is the first time that India are playing only two-Test series and Conrad expected it to be longer.

“I’d be lying if we said we haven’t taken note. We know what history tells us. If ever it was possible to make the series ever bigger, the fact that India have never won a Test series makes it even bigger here,” said the former Transvaal first-class cricketer.

“We will definitely hold that proud record and make sure that doesn’t happen.” He believes his men can maintain that record of not losing a Test series in their own backyard.

“India is the biggest series that we are going to play this year. It has been called the last frontier back in India and we will do our best to make sure they don’t capture the final frontier.” There were 14 out of 15 members out there sweating it out and even former KKR and RCB all-rounder David Wiese, who plays international cricket for Namibia, was seen bowling against India’s nemesis Keegan Peterson in the main nets.

Young guns Gerald Coetzee and Nandre Burger were also seen going flat, while Marco Jansen also looked sharp.

Among top Indian players over the age of 31, only Virat Kohli averages 50 in Test matches in South Africa over three tournaments, a statistic not lost on Conrad. “If there is a top five in world cricket at the moment, Virat Kohli is sitting at number one. It goes without saying that Virat will be a prized wicket wherever he plays in the world. He will be a prized wicket even when he is 50.

“India have a quality batting lineup. Rohit Sharma, the young Shubman Gill and there is quality breaking through, but we have a quality bowling lineup.”

The Dean Elgar question

Dean Elgar will end a very good career at 86 Test matches, which includes the upcoming two against India. The former Proteas captain, who has 5146 runs with 13 hundreds and an average of just under 38, doesn’t exactly find motivation to continue playing as he played just four Tests in total in a single year.

However, Elgar will continue to play first-class cricket.

The only time the head coach looked slightly uncomfortable was answering questions about local boy Elgar’s retirement.

“It wasn’t because we just had four Tests and Dean decided to retire. It was a conversation that Dean and I had. The fact that we don’t play many Tests is part of the reason we arrived at the decision we reached.” However, he was surprised that the South African media knew that he and Elgar had a conversation about the latter’s future.

“The conversation and the outcome has been exactly what Dean and I had discussed. It was surprising to me that a certain journalist was on board. But no surprise to me that Dean has decided to pull out against India,” the coach said.

(With the exception of the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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