The South Africans would be akin to ancient marauders, rampaging everything in sight. They would look for a kill from the outset. Indians could only be on their feet if they cling to self-belief and stare down the opponent. Otherwise, the Proteans will be all over them.
It’s not a moment where Indians could hide. They would find themselves in the ring against opponents who have mastered the art of playing aggressive cricket. Only a similar brand of cricket is an answer to it. A blink and you are gone.
One of the challenges of international cricket, especially for teams from the sub-continent, is to hold your own in Australia and South Africa. The intimidation factor is ever-present. Only an unshakeable self-belief could see them through.
In this context, it was pleasing to see Sourav Ganguly responded to the challenge in the lead-up game. He was prepared to graft it out. The left-hander, who was left out of the team for one year — and for right reasons — has come back hungrier and fitter. The absence has allowed him to rediscover his passion. Though I do believe that the difference between South Africa A and South Africa is like chalk and cheese, still the work ethics and application of Ganguly was praiseworthy. A similar process is suggested for the middle-order.
India would be going in to the first Test with four bowlers, leaving out Irfan Pathan. It's a shame since Pathan has so far batted better than most batsmen. His batting has been a bonus and he can always chip in with some useful overs. But India are not prepared to risk him.
One of the things about the South Africans is their eye for detail. If they have to bounce the Sehwags, they do it unerringly. Rahul Dravid would be forced on the backfoot and rearing deliveries would be aimed at his still-injured finger.
Indians though, could still be a match. Somebody has to lead the way; one amazing innings could turn things around. Runs would be the key to their resurgence and there is enough runs in the ranks. The only thing in short supply is self-belief which could spark a revival.