A relatively inexperienced team and the fact that that their last 12 Tests have been played at home, are factors which might hinder India on their short tour of South Africa.
But captain MS Dhoni was not too perturbed on arrival in the country yesterday, three days before the first of three ODIs, in Joburg on Thursday.
This tour is an exciting challenge for Dhoni, in a different environment, with different challenges – pity then that the trip here is so short, lasting just 27 days. Dhoni handled questions about the tour – which includes two Tests – with typical charm, saying his side had to play what had been dealt them.
It is far from ideal, robbing not just the South African public of cricket at the height of the summer, but also players on both sides of the stimulus of extended competition.
And of the feud between the cricket administrators of the two countries, Dhoni had this suggestion to make. “I think we should arrange a match for the administrators and let them go at it,” he said.
South Africa of course offers uniquely divergent challenges to any other cricket country and is, as many of South Africa’s senior players have stated in recent seasons, probably the hardest place to bat in the world.
Nevertheless India’s coach Duncan Fletcher, a well-travelled technician, whose previous coaching stints included Western Province, most famously England, and various consultancy berths – including a period with the South African team in 2008 – believes his side have the mental fortitude to be successful here.
“The only thing is the experience,” Fletcher said yesterday. “I only just noticed it, it’s probably one of the most inexperienced Indian sides to tour. I didn’t realise that, having watched them and been excited about the cricket they had played. All in all it will be really exciting for them, they are up for the challenge, they’ve got no baggage to carry, they really believe in themselves, I think that’s a huge advantage.”
Fletcher and the Indian Board had tried to offset some of that inexperience by sending a number of the top-order batsmen to South Africa in the winter to help with the acclimatisation. Cheteshwar Pujara, Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Suresh Raina were part of the India A side which played matches against their South African counterparts in August, although as Fletcher acknowledged, conditions were vastly different to what he anticipates they’ll encounter in the coming four weeks.
“It was valuable,” he explained. “The wickets weren’t prepared the way they would be in the summer. But I think just the players coming out here and playing in South Africa in these conditions, against these sort of opponents, they get a feel for how the opposition works in South Africa, psychologically it is quite an advantage.”
The technical aspects of playing here include dealing with the faster pitches and most importantly the extra bounce; from a batting perspective Dhoni felt his side would thrive given the extra pace helps stroke-making, while the bowlers, especially the seamers, would enjoy the extra carry. - Cape Argus