Moment of truth: India face their biggest challenge at Wanderers

MS Dhoni1 vs 2: If India, currently ranked second in the ICC Test ratings with 119 points, beat South Africa, the top ranked side in the world with 131 points, 2-0 in the series, then the gap between the two sides will be reduced to just a point. India, incidentally, have won only two Tests in five tours since 1992. Following four losses from the first four series, India drew one the last time Graeme Smith and MS Dhoni met. Express Photo

At Wanderers, they say when you win the toss, look up and not down before deciding what you want to do. MS Dhoni and his boys, however, have only stared at bad news so far on this tour. Whether they've looked up at the murky skies or the pitches under their feet, there's only been trouble in sight.

To the extent that last week, despite the sunny ambience in Benoni, the visitors were denied their only shot at match practice. And it's likely that Dhoni will not know where to look if he does calls it right on Wednesday.

There will be other things on his mind too as he walks to the centre alongside counterpart Graeme Smith in Johannesburg. The first Test against South Africa will be Dhoni's 50th as captain. With this he will become the clear leader in terms of skippering India in the longer format, going past Sourav Ganguly with whom he was locked on 49.

The landmark might not really linger in the forefront of his thoughts. What will, though, is his recent overseas record, the 4-0 hammerings that were meted out to his team in England and Australia the last two Test series' that India played away from home even if he insisted on not carrying any excess baggage from the past into the two-match series.

Interestingly, after 49 Tests, Dhoni's success rate as captain is much better than Ganguly's. But the last time they won a series outside India was back in Bangladesh around four years ago. Dhoni has only two major Test match wins outside the subcontinent to boast, ones in Hamilton and the other in Durban, during India's last tour to this part of the world.

Legacy set

It was under Ganguly that India began dispelling myths about their struggles abroad. Ganguly's first Test as captain outside the subcontinent came in these shores, back in 2001. This might already be Dhoni's second series as skipper in South Africa, but in many ways, with the batting stalwarts in particular having ridden into the sunset, Wednesday will be a new beginning of sorts. And like Ganguly, the onus might be on Dhoni to engineer a reconnaissance with a fledgling team, which possesses its own set of young stars.

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