India in SA
Kirsten 'the best thing ever'
Centurion – South Africa's cricket team have got it wrong if they think they can force India's batsmen into submission with a short ball war.
This was the message on Monday afternoon from India's captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, after his team had completed their first net practice here at SuperSport Park where the first Test in the series of three begins on Thursday.
"We are so used to that question – about how we will handle it when we are bombarded with short balls," said Dhoni with a smile.
"The answer is that it won't bother us. Most of our batsmen have recently played quite a lot in South Africa and are much more familiar with conditions than was the case in the past."
"That is why we don't pay attention to what history says about what happened here in the past. We don't think too much about the statistics," he said with regard to India's Test record of one victory in nine attempts since 1996.
Dhoni believes his team has batsmen who are equipped to survive a bouncer-war. "It isn't something which we aren't expecting. It is after all how South Africa have achieved success against us in the past."
"It will be important for us to adapt to the conditions."
"Yet I believe we will be better prepared than before, because the guys have played here in the Indian Premier League and in the Champions League and it is not that foreign to them," he said.
"The most important thing is to remain focused and well prepared for what awaits us."
He also believes the influence and knowledge of his team's South African coach, Gary Kirsten, will be an important factor.
"Gary Kirsten is the best thing that could've happened to Indian cricket," says Dhoni.
"He not only knows our players but also understands the mindset of the South Africans and that insight will be important."
He says the turning point for India was in September 2008, and since then there has been a process which has brought the team to the top of the Test rankings.
"Sustainability is now what it's about and we have to show here that we are worthy of being in the top position on the log," says Dhoni.
To him, most important is the first session of the Test, regardless of whether his team is batting or bowling.
"That is where you have to make your mark and take control of the Test."
He believes his team's fast bowlers will do well in South African conditions. Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma and Sree Sreesanth are the trio who will have to put the South African batsmen under pressure with their speed and swing.
With Khan's left-handed deliveries, Sharma's ability to get bounce from pitches and Sreesanth's swing bowling, there is enough variety to give the Proteas' batsmen food for thought.
"Our bowlers also have the ability to adapt quickly and I have the utmost confidence in them," says Dhoni.