It is important that I begin with coach Greg Chappell and how central he would be for India's plans in the forthcoming series. I might lose a few Indian friends in the process but that's besides the point. The team must look more and more up to him to guide them through this tough tour.
Chappell has got it in him to mentally prepare this Indian team for the aggression which would come from the South Africans. We all know his background and we all know how the Aussies think. Being a typical Australian, it's in-built in him to be hard and tough.
Let's accept it, despite a few notable wins abroad in this decade, Indians have never been good travellers. They sometimes appear so soft and laidback that they get threatened by the aggressiveness of the Australians and South Africans. If the players do not get rid of that attitude, they are going to get a hiding wherever they go. It's just going to carry on and on.
That is why I feel Chappell has a big role to play. He knows all about being hard and tough. I think if he instills that attitude then Indians can beat any side away from home. They have that sort of players in their ranks. He could teach the lads how they should never take a step backwards.
I have been amused by all the criticism which has come his way and on his experiments. Knowing how the Australians think, I feel he has been trying to take a few of the Indians out of their comfort zone, those cricketers who were happy with what they were performing and were not willing to go the extra mile.
Chappell's experiments must have been intended to make the cricketers think on their feet. The softness and the shyness of the Indian cricketers, looking from outside and looking in, that's what perhaps he has been trying the Indians to get rid of.
Giving this belief a logical extension, I feel it is important that the captain must buy into the coach's thinking. It is paramount. I have played under a few of the very best captains and coaches of the world and they all tended to lead from the front. Starting with Kepler Wessels and Hansie Cronje and knowing what influence Bob Woolmer had on all of us, I am saying this from experience.
Even though Rahul Dravid has appeared a laidback sort of character to me, we South Africans rate him very, very highly. He is one guy we used to discuss in team meeting a lot because he always does well in South Africa. He just values his wicket so highly. So if that's Chappell's plans then Dravid must relay this to his team quickly. There's little doubt in my mind that this tour is going to be very tough for him.
When we come from India, we always promise ourselves that they would find it a very different story in South Africa. I don't expect anything less this time around. I think South Africa would be very aggressive. I don't think they would prepare green pitches. The strips in any case have been good, perhaps too good in the last four-five years. One thing South Africa might like to ensure is that pitches are not too perfect and right up India's street.
They would be very aggressive but it's how they channel that aggression which would be important. They must learn to be patient. I think the South African bowling, in the last year and a half, has not shown that kind of patience. Sometimes the skill factor has also let them down. They have depended too heavily and hard on Shaun Pollock and Makhaya Ntini.
As for Indian bowlers, they all can swing and that's going to be a test for the South Africans. Especially the new-ball pairing. I am not so sure about Zaheer Khan at the moment as he still looks to be trying to find his feet. He is certainly not the Zaheer Khan I know. Still, he has got great control and he swings it late.
Sreesanth has got lovely action, and he looks a hungry cricketer, a cricketer who could go a long way in the future. He seems to enjoy his cricket and appears very nice and uncomplicated. He has an injury-free action and I am very impressed by him.
Looking at these men in blue in Benoni on Thursday, I feel if they can fire in the five one-dayers and Tests, then South Africa is going to look out.