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SA toughen up for ‘hard’ India

cricket Updated: Mar 26, 2008 01:25 IST
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South Africa are on a roll when it comes to Test matches. In the 2007-08 season, they played nine Tests against four opponents and won seven while losing and drawing a Test each.

Interestingly, four of the nine Tests were played in the sub-continent. So after surprising Pakistan on their home soil in October and demolishing Bangladesh earlier this month, the South Africans have arrived hoping to conclude their sub-continental tour on a pleasing note.

As Graeme Smith and his Indian counterpart Anil Kumble unveiled the Future Cup for the three-Test series, the skipper was looking forward to the stiffest test on their sub-continental voyage. But Smith wasn't willing to refer to it as the
stiffest test.

"I think every Test series we played this year has had its challenges," Smith told reporters. "Going to Pakistan, there were a lot of things to face up to. Now that we have won the series, it's easy to say it was not that hard.

"In fairness, India are one of the most experienced teams in world cricket. They have a team that's well balanced, been around for a number of years and there are a lot of impressive names in that line-up.

“For all of us, it's a wonderful opportunity to face (tough) conditions. Our challenge is to be the best team in the world and I believe we can do it."

Kirsten-Upton factor

More than the Dale Steyn versus Sachin Tendulkar-Rahul Dravid or Anil Kumble versus Jacques Kallis contests, the series has been portrayed as a battle between Gary Kirsten-Paddy Upton and the South Africans.

The former South African opener and the team's former mental conditioning expert start their stint with the Indian team with a series against their home country.

Upton, highly recommended by coach Kirsten, has joined as the physical and mental conditioning and strategic leadership coach.

Smith said South Africa were not "hugely" fazed by Kirsten, who has played alongside several players in the current squad.

"It's not something that fazes us hugely. As a person we respect Gary," Smith said.

"He's a guy who had an impact on me as a young guy. It's a challenge for him to come into the Indian set-up and it remains to be seen how he's going to impact them. For us, it's about making sure we analyse and dissect the Indian team. That's primarily our focus, not Gary."

Challenges ahead

While the South Africans are looking to complete their sub-continental whitewash, they are also viewing the series from a different perspective.

After this series, the Proteas are set to tour England in June and visit Australia at the end of the year.

"We are mentally prepared for this series," said Smith.

"It's the start of the three biggest challenges in world cricket, all away from home.

“It's something we're really looking forward to while playing our brand of cricket in the next five days."