Durban - The Proteas' fine-tuning of their squad for next month's Cricket World Cup could be hampered by the injury to Jacques Kallis and the moist conditions at Kingsmead for the One Day International (ODI) series against India starting on Wednesday.
"Jakes [Kallis] will not play any role in this series," Proteas’ captain Graeme Smith said after the team’s training session on Tuesday. Kallis has a side strain.
"With the World Cup just around the corner, every player would love to perform well and it’s an added pressure on them, but it makes it very difficult for us to try out different combinations around Jakes if he’s not playing," he said.
"We need to find the right combination, but the conditions at the World Cup will be totally different so, as much as we’d like to do well and take confidence out of this series with us to the sub-continent, it’s not realistic," he said.
The World Cup starts on February 19 and will be played at grounds in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh where, traditionally, the dry wickets assist the spinners, rather than seam or swing bowlers.
The pitches have virtually no grass and afford little assistance for pace, bounce, or lateral air movement.
This will be very different from the pitches provided for the series against India, which have greener wickets with a lot of moisture in the air because of all the rain.
The wickets in South Africa assist fast bowlers because of the amount of bounce they generate.
"We’ve always had good one-day wickets around the country where the ball can swing a bit and, although it can also be a bit dry, it would be very difficult to produce Nagpur out of the Wanderers," Smith said.
"It will be another exciting series, just like the Test series was. We have a lot of quality players playing for their spots in the World Cup squad, which is an extra incentive for them. It’s also the last time we’ll play in South Africa for a long time."
Smith said he was excited to have Imran Tahir as an option in his team as they have been lacking an attacking leg-spinner for many years.
"Having an attacking spinner is something I’ve dreamt about throughout my captaincy, but it’s also crucial how we manage Imran going forward.
"It’s an attacking option through the middle overs which we haven’t really had before.
"It can change a game. With our seam attack it adds a wonderful option, but we don’t want to put too much pressure on him. He needs to find his natural game," he said.
"We’re also working hard on developing Wayne Parnell into the all-rounder role. We’re working on improving his batting and his bowling so that he can step in to play that role in the future."
Ex-England coach Duncan Fletcher is working as a consultant with the Proteas in the month ahead of the World Cup.
"Duncan is very astute and plays a behind-the-scenes role. He’s helping the batters and things we’re each trying to work on in our own game," said Smith.
"It’s always nice to have him here. He’s a very experienced coach and has had a lot of success. He can add a lot of value," he said.
Heavy rain in the Durban area affected practice and was making team selection difficult.
"There’s a lot of moisture around, so we just need to take a step backwards and see how the surface looks tomorrow," said Smith.
South Africa: Graeme Smith (capt), Hashim Amla, Colin Ingram, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, David Miller, Johan Botha, Imran Tahir, Wayne Parnell, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Robin Peterson.
India: Sachin Tendulkar, Murali Vijay, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma, MS Dhoni (capt), Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Munaf Patel, Yusuf Pathan and Ravichandran Ashwin.