DURBAN - South Africa and India square off in the first of six one-day internationals at Kingsmead on Thursday and the portents suggest the tourists will give as good as they get over the next fortnight.
“As I said before the Test series, I feel like this Indian cricket team has got the names on paper to try and challenge that (record in SA) and try and get a few victories,” Proteas captain Faf du Plessis warned.
"They have already proved they are a quality side in the Test series, and I expect more of the same in this series."
It is a fair assessment, given the warning shots fired by the Indian batsmen in the latter stages of the Test series. In the one-day stuff, the expectation is that the batters will finally take centre stage.
“One-day cricket should always be played on good wickets,” Du Plessis agreed, putting a full stop on any talk of playing conditions.
The pitch has already caught India’s eye, to the point where visiting skipper Virat Kohli has decided that going with both of his wrist-spinners may be the right thing to do.
South Africa have already dismissed the idea of playing both Imran Tahir and Tabraiz Shamsi in the same side.
“Imran is a big reason why we got to number one in the world. We can’t really go in with two spinners because of the balance of our side,” Du Plessis explained.
That means he will look for a few overs from the likes of JP Duminy and even Aiden Markram.
The Proteas squad may have several new faces in it but Du Plessis noted the importance of having experienced men like Duminy, David Miller and Chris Morris.
“JP has been away from the team for a long time, so it really is great to have him back. David has been really good for us over the last two overs, and ‘Morry’ has had one or two injuries. It’s really important to get him back and winning games for South Africa,” the captain said.
This series, Du Plessis said, is the beginning of a new approach towards tournament cricket, where the priority is not necessarily the immediate result but the bigger picture.
“Our mind-set has changed. We have always focused on the now. This is the first time we have taken a small step away from the now and a bigger step towards the future. This is the first time that, as captain and coach, our conversations are about how we can have a look at more players,” he explained.
“A year and a half from now, we want to make sure we have a group of players who have had time in the middle in pressure situations.”
It is a given, then, that results may occasionally take a hit, but Du Plessis and Co are looking for the right balance.
“We're a little bit more focused towards the World Cup, and if you say that, you have to give yourself a bit of an allowance because you won’t always play your best team. When you play strong teams you always want to play your strongest team, but we want to give an opportunity for young guys to come through this series.”
For those members of the squad who were in the Test series, the shift to the white ball has been rather sudden, and Du Plessis admitted as much.
They were put through their paces at Kingsmead, with a strong focus on fielding after a slack showing at The Wanderers.
“I felt yesterday after training for the first time, we could feel that mentally we were drained, which was the side-effects of a powerful Test series with a lot of pressure. I assume once we get into one-day mode, mentally we will make that switch again,” he added.
Play in Durban starts at 1pm today, with coverage on SuperSport 2 and SABC3 from 12.30pm.