NEW DELHI: South Africa is not only the world’s top test side, it is also acknowledged as the team that tours best. But that will not lessen the challenge of performing against spin on slow Indian pitches during its upcoming 72-day tour, when it plays three Twenty20 games, five one-day internationals and its first ever four-test series against India.
South Africa coach Russell Domingo understands the difficulty that India poses but is hoping Indian Premier League experience will help the players adjust quickly.
“We know India is going to be tough in these conditions,” Domingo said ahead of the ‘Mahatma Gandhi-Nelson Mandela Series’.
“They have some young players who are good. It will be a tough challenge for us. A lot of (our) players have played in the IPL so we do understand what is required in these conditions.”
World Cup-winning captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni will lead India in the limited overs leg after retiring from tests, in which Virat Kohli is captain.
South Africa has three different captains, who each play in all formats. T20 captain Faf du Plessis sees that as an advantage on such a long tour with test captain Hashim Amla and one-day captain A.B. de Villiers also getting respite like him.
“Three captains are working beautifully for us,” Plessis said.
“There’s always a fresh mind coming into things. There has not been one instance where one individual has had a different perspective; the great thing is we play all the formats together, continuously learn from each other.”
In India, spin is usually decisive. Much will hinge on how the Proteas’ batsmen play against slow bowlers like Ravichandran Ashwin and Amit Mishra, and on how the Imran Tahir-led spin attack can challenge the likes of Kohli and Dhoni.
South Africa’s strength, though, lies in its pace bowling. Premier paceman Dale Steyn has in the past helped win tests on Indian soil by big margins.
He grabbed 5-23 to dismiss India for a measly 76 at Ahmedabad in 2008 and then took 3-91 and helped complete an innings win. In 2010, he took 7-51 and 3-37 to again carve out an innings win at Nagpur.
“We will go with what has worked for us in the past,” allrounder Jean-Paul Duminy said after the tourists lost a practice T20 game against an India A side in New Delhi on Tuesday.
“We’ve relied on our pace bowlers to do the job for us and I don’t think we will think any differently going into the first (T20) game (at Dharamsala) on Friday.
“We’re not thinking too far down the line in the series. Hopefully things will go well. If they don’t, we can reassess what is going to work for us in the conditions,” Duminy said.
India team director Ravi Shastri acknowledges that the Proteas can prove a handful.
“We know what we are up against,” Shastri said. “They’re a stiff opposition. They play well in overseas conditions, better than any other side in world cricket. They travel better than any other team, and their record shows that,” Shastri said ahead of the series.
The Dharamsala match will be followed by two more T20s at Cuttack and Kolkata next week. The ODIs will be in Kanpur (Oct. 11), Indore (Oct. 14), Rajkot (Oct. 18), Chennai (Oct. 22) and
Mumbai (Oct. 25). The tests will be played in Mohali (Nov. 5-9), Bangalore (Nov. 14-18), Nagpur (Nov. 25-29), and New Delhi (Dec. 3-7).