They may be the No. 1 Test team in the world, but India will not start as the favourites when they take on South Africa in Cape Town on 5 January. It will be the 18th time that India will be playing South Africa on their home ground. It hasn’t won a Test there since 2010.

India have risen quite a bit since then, thanks to the success they have enjoyed in familiar conditions, either at home or elsewhere in the subcontinent, as the analysis below shows. In fact, if you take away matches played in the subcontinent, India’s away-win record has actually worsened in recent years.

India’s previous South Africa tours have seen them lagging behind the hosts. And South Africa haven’t done as badly when they played India in India. In fact, South Africa have traditionally won a greater proportion of matches playing in India than India have won in South Africa. India have only recently edged slightly ahead.

Some of this could be because of the Indian batting lineup’s inability to handle pace as a team, though there have been notable individual exceptions. This doesn’t seem to have changed in recent times, if one goes by the recent performance against Sri Lanka on pitches that favoured fast bowlers. India didn’t last 60 overs in the Kolkata test match. And they were bowled out for 112 in the Dharamsala one-day international.

The South African pitches seem to favour pace bowlers in particular. The proportion of wickets taken by pacers is higher in South Africa than the world, shows Mint’s analysis.

South Africa’s pace attack remains formidable.

The team against India will include Dale Steyn. Sportstarlive.com reported that South African pacers Chris Morris, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel have recovered from injury and are all fit to play.

India’s pace-attack includes Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami.

The new year will test their mettle.

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