Smith warns India’s batsmen

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Proteas captain Graeme Smith and India skipper MS Dhoni ahead of their two-Test series. Picture: Duif du Toit/Gallo Images

Johannesburg – South African captain Graeme Smith warned on Tuesday that India's inexperienced batsmen will face a tough challenge from South Africa's fast bowlers in the two-match series which starts at the Wanderers Stadium on Wednesday.

“Obviously they're hugely talented but it's a very different line-up to the one I've become accustomed to playing against,” said Smith. “Touring in other parts of the world is a big test of character and that's going to be on show in these two Test matches.”

Following the retirement of Sachin Tendulkar, India's likely top six have a total of 59 Test caps between them. Only Cheteshwar Pujara (two) and Murali Vijay (one) have played Test cricket in South Africa.

Asked whether his bowlers would seek to intimidate the Indians, Smith said his team would adopt the same approach that had taken them to number one in the Test rankings.

“The way we have played has been hugely successful for us. We play the game hard but there's a huge respect factor for the game and our opposition. As the number one team I would like to see us play some good cricket.”

Smith said he expected the new ball to be a factor at the Wanderers.

“Both first innings are probably going to be tough. There's a bit of moisture in that wicket and some good cracks. I expect it to be a normal Wanderers wicket of recent times, hopefully with good pace and bounce.”

Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, whose 79 caps are 20 more than the specialist batsmen combined, deflected pressure from India's batsmen and said the bowling would be important.

“One of the most crucial things will be to bowl well,” he said. “To win Test matches of course you need to score runs but you also need to take 20 wickets. It's a bit of both, whatever we start first it will fire the confidence of the other department.”

Dhoni said he had confidence in his young players despite India having only batted twice in a three-match one-day series and having their planned two-day warm-up game washed out.

“The preparation has been good,” he said, citing intensive middle practice after the warm-up game was called off.

Dhoni said he did not believe the lack of experience among the batsmen would be a negative for India.

“Not getting too technical is very important,” he said. “You can't change your technique in five or seven days. What is important is to know your limitations and at the same time back your strengths. It's not an experiment.

“They've done really well on the domestic circuit in whatever international exposure they have had they have done well.”

Smith announced South Africa's eleven for the Test, with Hashim Amla returning in place of Dean Elgar from the side that beat Pakistan by an innings in Dubai in October. Amla missed that match because he had flown home for the birth of his second child.

Dhoni said India would only finalise their team on Wednesday but indicated that veteran left-arm bowler Zaheer Khan would play his first international match in more than a year.

“He is very experienced and he can be the leader of the pack.”

Khan has dismissed Smith 12 times in international matches and said last week, probably with tongue in cheek, that he only needed to turn up to get the South African captain again.

Smith said he wouldn't lose any sleep worrying about past dismissals.

“I've had enough battles with bowlers over the years. It's another wonderful opportunity to front up to an outstanding bowler.”

TEAMS

South Africa: Graeme Smith (captain), Alviro Petersen, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers (wkt), JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Imran Tahir.

India (from): Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain, wkt), Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Ravindra Jadeja, Zaheer Khan, Ambati Rayudu, Wriddhiman Saha (wkt), Ishant Sharma, Pragyan Ojha. – Sapa-AFP


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