India’s a tough test for Proteas

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Proteas coach Russell Domingo says his charges are heading in the right direction, having won five of their last eight ODIs. Photo by Richard Huggard/Gallo Images

Johannesburg: Whether you were driving in an enforced frump on toll roads or preparing for an international cricket match under low, dark skies, Johannesburg was a gloomy place to be yesterday.

The forecast for both – eTolls and the Momentum ODI between South Africa and India at the Wanderers tomorrow – is uncertain. There is a vague chance of a storm over the Wanderers tomorrow, with a 50% prediction of precipitation. There is a very real chance of a storm over Sanral for the foreseeable future, despite a vague percentage of people allegedly purchasing eTags.

Today, though, the sun is expected to come out over Johannesburg, and there was little dark or gloomy about Russell Domingo, the coach of South Africa, as he spoke of the challenge that India would present to his team after their recent series loss to Pakistan. “It’s a big gauge for us,” said Domingo.

“Look, we’ve won five of our last eight one-dayers, so we’re heading in the right direction, there is no doubt about it. But we know that India are going to be a tough assignment for us. They are coming off outstanding performances, albeit in India and under Indian conditions, but we are really looking forward to it. We need to see where we are going.”

The perception that the Proteas have had problems chasing a total, particularly against spin bowlers, was given some weight against Pakistan. “I don’t think it’s spin bowlers, I think it’s one or two spin bowlers,” said Domingo.

“Saeed Ajmal is the number-one ranked (ODI) bowler right now. He’s a world-class spinner, he has been for a period of time, and particularly when you play him under conditions like we had in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth as well. He’s always going to be tough.

“A lot of batters have struggled against him and a lot will still struggle against him. I don’t think we’ve got a weakness against spin bowling, just that Saeed Ajmal is a world-class bowler and I’m glad he’s back in Pakistan.”

India have spin talent of their own, but Domingo felt that they would be less of a factor at the Wanderers, where the pitch is a little bouncier and faster. The conditions at the coastal grounds – such as Durban, where South Africa will play India in the next ODI and one of the two Tests – suited spin more. Domingo gave a wry smile when asked by an Indian journalist if he had asked, as the home coach, for the Wanderers pitch to be prepared to give his side an advantage.

“I don’t think coaches have too much say nowadays in terms of how the wickets get prepared,” laughed Domingo. “We know how the wickets get prepared on the highveld. We’re looking forward to getting back on bouncier and quicker pitches. We’re just looking for a good cricket wicket.”

The shortening of this tour by the BCCI will be a constant theme through the summer, but Domingo believed his players had not been “too stressed about it. We’ve just come off a long series, home and away, against Pakistan. It’s not something we’ve really discussed too much.

“The players are fully focused on what they’ve been dealt with and we’ve got to focus on the three one-dayers and two Test matches. It’s not too much of an issue for us. It would have been nice to play a longer series.

India are a quality side and a big attraction, and we would have liked to test ourselves against them, but that’s the way it is and there’s nothing we can do about it.”

Meanwhile, Sapa reports that Domingo is confident that Dale Steyn and Jacques Kallis will be ready to play in the first ODI tomorrow.

The pair missed the last ODI against Pakistan on Saturday, but the coach said they would make a welcome return for the start of the Indian tour at the Bullring.

“They did have some slight niggles, but we’ll see how they go in practice and we’ll be fine.”

Although Kallis played in the two ODIs the Proteas lost against Pakistan, his presence in the team would be a boost, Domingo said.

“It’s great to have Jacques back. He’s three players in one. It’s great that he’s playing again.”

“It does pose some selection challenges. It’s not easy selecting a side where the guys in the past have done well individually. When Jacques is fit to play, any coach would have him in his team. The issue is finding a way to leave somebody out.”

Domingo said Ryan McLaren could feel hard done by if he were to miss out for Kallis. - Cape Times

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