It is not only the Proteas fast bowlers who are looking forward to exploiting the conditions in the upcoming India series, but so too are the tourists.
All the pitches to be used for the three-Test series are set to be well-grassed that offers good pace and bounce. However, the World No 1 India team arrived in South Africa with a five-man fast bowling artillery that consists of Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Within that unit there is a wonderful blend of pace (Yadav and Bumrah), seam (Shami), bounce (Sharma) and swing (Bhuvneshwar) who could be equally dangerous on these surfaces.
“We would love to bowl in these conditions,” Bhuvneshwar told reporters at the Western Province Cricket Club. “We cannot say what kind of wicket we will get in the match. But we know the general conditions in South Africa, so we are preparing according to that. We just want to prepare our best, that’s all we want.
“The first thing that changes (from India) is the bounce, I won’t say it swings in South Africa. It doesn’t swing much, but the bounce is something every fast bowler enjoys. That’s something we really wanted to practice. We wanted to cover all the basic things. Whenever there is extra bounce, where to bowl, what field we can have to get them out - these are the little things we wanted to do in the practice session.”
The Indians have opted not to play a two-day warm-up match and have instead focused on detailed practise sessions in the lead-up to the first Test at Newlands on January 5.
They were forced indoors on Sunday after some light drizzle in the morning, but came out after lunch to train on a dampish, seaming wicket in order to best mirror extreme conditions they may face.
“We did two sessions just to get into the groove of the Test match,” he said. “You play a six-hour (each day) Test match. We just wanted to bowl as long as possible to get into that mode. We didn’t do anything different, we wanted to go through our basics.”
Another major adaptation the Indian bowlers need to make, though, is the actual ball that will be used in the Test series. India have played the majority of their Test matches at home over the last year, where the SG ball is used. The Kookaburra is utilised in South Africa, which has a less pronounced seam and doesn’t offer as much reverse-swing.
“The Kookaburra is one of the toughest balls to bowl with. It doesn’t do much after 25-30 overs. These are the kind of situations we are tackling in the practice session,” he said.
“Maybe a couple of days before the Test match, we will see how we can go into the Test match, or what are the things we can bring into the Test match regarding strategies, their batsmen.”
Like his captain Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri stressed upon arrival in South Africa, Bhuvneshwar too emphasised that this India team are eager to surpass legends like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and Zaheer Khan by becoming the first team from the subcontinent to win a Test series here in South Africa.
“Everyone is confident,” Bhuvneshwar stated. “Whenever any team tours abroad, there is a great chance to win those series, but you have to give your best in every department on all five days. This team has done well in the last two and a half years, so we are confident doing well in these conditions. But yes, like I said, we have to be at our best to win the series here.”