Despite the turmoil in their cricket establishment back home, write South Africa off at your own peril, warned Sourav Ganguly. Having been there, done that, the former India skipper knows a thing or two about how international cricketers handle pressure and, according to him, this unrest might just help the Proteas come together.
“These incidents can sometimes help the players come together and make them more determined to perform as a team,” Ganguly told Hindustan Times. “The players back each other and, all of a sudden, the team spirit can become much stronger. And as professional players, I don’t think they will let such things affect performance.”
Ganguly though said India start the two-Test series as favourites even though Rahul Dravid has been ruled out, because V.V.S. Laxman has recovered from his hand injury sustained in Bangladesh. “My money will still be on India.”
Ganguly, however, sounded little apprehensive about the Indian middle order. “We have to rely on the likes of (Murali) Vijay and S. Badrinath.. but, yes batting is a worry.”
The winner of many a bitter battle, Ganguly said irrespective of the shape India’s batting finally takes, they will be up against a tough attack.
“(Dale) Steyn and (Morne) Morkel are dangerous bowlers. Steyn is outstanding, with good pace, and can reverse-swing the ball. Morkel bowls from a good height, at good pace and can extract bounce.
“They can be a handful against any batting side and both have the experience of playing in India.”
The surprise weapon, according to Ganguly, might be off-spinner Johan Botha, whose action has been reported against in the past.
“I think the Nagpur (where the first Test starts on February 6) pitch will offer spin and bounce. If that happens, Botha can be a tricky customer.”
Talking about India’s bowling resources, Ganguly said reverse-swing, which played a major role in the home series win against Australia in 2008, will be effective in Nagpur only. “At Eden (venue for the second Test), the SG ball won’t lose shine that early. So reverse-swing is likely to be a factor in the first Test only.”
And about the crucial factor of spin against a strong South African batting line-up, Ganguly said Amit Mishra should partner Harbhajan Singh.
“Even though most of their batsmen have the experience of playing in India, they are always vulnerable against wrist spin. Shane Warne has shown that many times.
“Though there can’t be any comparison between the two, I still think Mishra should be the second spinner.”
Finally, is this going to be the toughest test for Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s India? His answer was a firm no. “That has to be Australia.
They are still the best.” Irrespective of rankings then, according to Ganguly, this is going to be a battle to determine who’s next!