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We are putting past lessons to good use

Sticking to basics has often made the difference between an average and a very good one, writes Graeme Smith.

india Updated: Nov 20, 2005 16:41 IST
Graeme Smith
Graeme Smith

Though the victory at Hyderabad has given us a tremendous boost, we are not going to take it easy, because we know India will come hard at us in the next game at Bangalore. It will be a different ground, and we will play under different conditions, and we will, in all likelihood, face tougher competition.

India's total of 249 could have proved to be a tough target, but we overhauled it in typical South African style -- where we look to field well, bowl with great intensity, and bat clinically. Our performance at Hyderabad embodied all three of those qualities.

Before we came to India, we knew one thing - we would have to adapt quickly, to whatever India threw at us. They were on a high and playing on home territory. We knew we had to put them under intense pressure from the word go for us to have any chance at all.

So at Hyderabad, you would have noticed that we never once gave up, not when Harbhajan Singh was hammering the bowlers at the death, not when Yuvraj was going great guns, not when he nicked a few and we didn't collect, not when Justin Ontong and I got out one after another, and not even when Ashwell Prince and Mark Boucher fell in quick succession. There were still Jacques Kallis and Justin Kemp to finish things off.

That, in a way, has been the reason for our recent success. In a lot of ways, the South African team you see today is stronger than the one that travelled to India for the Test series at about this time last year. Under our new coach, we have become a group of world-class individuals who nevertheless function best as a team. Which means that on any given day, any one of the guys can win a game for us if the others fail. We all attack with the same intensity and aggression.

Because we focus so much on teamwork, we bother less about factors such as the toss, the pitch and playing conditions. For instance, we know that Bangalore will offer a drier wicket than Hyderabad, and then because it is a daynight game, we will have to take the dew into account. I myself have never played here, as haven't a lot of the other guys. But honestly, we aren't worried, but simply eager to play in front of what will be a great crowd, in a stadium that looks very good.

Our gameplan remains simple - if we bat first, we put up a big total and if we bowl first, we find newer and varied ways to strike. That sounds laughably simple, but sticking to basics has often made the difference between an average team and a very good one.

Contrary to what many might expect, we are not carrying any baggage from the 1-0 loss in our Test series last year.

In fact, that helped us gain experience about Indian conditions and benefited us immensely. Right now, it looks as though we are putting those lessons to good use.

First Published: Nov 20, 2005 16:41 IST