Here, momentum?s the catchword

One would be sticking his neck out if he dares to pick up the favourite between India and SA.

india Updated: Nov 16, 2005 10:58 IST

One would be sticking his neck out if he dares to pick up the favourite between India and South Africa. The teams are riding high on confidence and look in ominous form following their emphatic victories over their respective opponents in Sri Lanka and New Zealand.

And this sterling show seems to have instilled a good deal of respect in them for each other's abilities. That became evident when both Indian skipper Rahul Dravid and South African captain Graeme Smith refrained from making any assertive statement on the eve of the first of the five-match series here in Hyderabad.

The skippers were rather appreciative of what the other has achieved in their last series and, as for their own side, they hoped they would be able to carry on with the momentum they have come into the series. "We have come into the series riding on the back of a fantastic victory. The approach and the attitude of the players have been fantastic and I hope we continue in the same vein and keep getting better and grow as a team," said Dravid after admitting that playing South Africa would be a tough challenge.

"Smith, on the other hand, also admitted that playing in India is always a challenge. "India are riding high on confidence and they have the momentum going for them," he said. He, however, quickly added that they, too, were prepared to face any challenge hurled at them. "We are ready and in a very positive frame of mind," he said.

When asked about their game plans, the skippers admitted that they have their strategies worked out but were not very forthcoming about it. However, it was easy to make out what the Africans were banking on and what they feel is the India's strength when Graeme Smith asserted that 'they have the bowling attack to put the Indian run machine under pressure'.

It may be mentioned that South Africans have come into the series with as many as seven seamers (Shaun Pollock, Makhaya Ntini, Andre Nel, Charles Langeveldt and all-rounders like Jacques Kallis, Justin Kemp and Andrew Hall). The South Africans also have three spinners in Peter Robinson, Johan Botha and Justin Ontong.

But one got an inkling about what their role would be in this pace-dominated attack when, asked about Botha's inclusion in the side, Smith said this series would be a great learning experience for him and he could prove quite handy by the time the World Cup is round the corner.

India, on the other hand, seem to have a pretty well-rounded look at the moment. Their batsmen are in ominous form, seamers, too, are on a roll and spinners, who were pretty impressive against Lanka, would certainly be even more effective against the South Africans. But Dravid, it seems, does not want to rest on past laurels. "We are entering into a fresh series and we do have our strategies worked out," he said. "But eventually it boils down to how you execute them, how well you can think on your feet and how quickly you can respond to the changed situations," he said.

First Published: Nov 16, 2005 09:29 IST