“History,” said Graeme Smith on Saturday, “is something to look back on, enjoy, learn from. This, now, is a fresh series.”
The South African skipper, answering a question on whether India’s poor record in South Africa would have a bearing on their psyche and the South Africans, was being unusually diplomatic and perhaps the genial host, who could afford to be generous, even though he added, ominously, that the Proteas did have confidence in their “own ability” while playing at home.
So does everyone else, in fact. While South Africa will have no major changes in a side that has been together, bonded together and played well together over thee last year-and-a-half or so, India are in the midst of a flux.
They have a bunch of players as yet uncertain of their places and positions in the scheme of things and there is no doubting that the odds are stacked against them as they go into what will be a gruelling two-month tour, even while the home team will look to turn the screws ahead of the Tests.
Straight off, India, barring a couple of players, have traditionally had a problem with wickets with bounce and carry and South Africa has both. “From my point of view,” said Dravid, “it is more interesting to play on these wickets. The key is to adjust to the bounce but once you do that, it can showcase your batting skills much better than the one-dimensional wickets you find elsewhere.”
Well, the key will also lie in how the Indian bowlers do. At Benoni, one scary aspect for Indian fans was the way the bowlers bowled at the death, giving away nine runs to South Africa A in the last 10 overs. Both Chappell and Dravid said it was a learning experience but they would need their bowlers to learn quickly.
Meanwhile, it seems that their best bowler on the day, Anil Kumble, could sit out. Dravid, while saying that he was lucky to have, in Harbhajan and Kumble, two world-class spinners and naturally, would be tempted to play both, added that it was probable that on this tour, they would choose between the two from game to game.
And then he added, “We picked Anil with a view to the World Cup. His being with the team over the next few months, sharing his experiences and advice, is more important than his playing this game.”