Mohali - Buoyant South Africa will look to
continue their amazing nine-year unbeaten run in away Test series when they
begin a four-match contest against Virat Kohli's India in Mohali from Thursday.
The Proteas, the world's top-ranked Test
side, have not lost a series away from home since Ashwell Prince's team
suffered a 2-0 defeat in Sri Lanka in 2006.
They lived up to their reputation of being
good travellers on bilateral tours by winning both the Twenty20 and one-day
series on the current 10-week sojourn through India.
South Africa go into the Tests seeking
their first series win on Indian soil in 15 years, having drawn 1-1 on their
last two tours in 2008 and 2010.
Star batsman AB de Villiers, who hit three
centuries in the one-day series and followed that with 112 in a practice match
in Mumbai ahead of the first Test, was excited at the contests ahead.
"We are very hungry for success,
hungry to create history," he said. "We love travelling abroad and
that's where our team spirit kicks in and plays a role.
"It was an incredible achievement by
us to win both the limited-overs series and there is no reason we can't win the
Test series. But we know a lot of hard work lies ahead.
"India will want to come back harder
and stronger, and we know they have the ability to do that, but we will be up
South Africa will rely on de Villiers and
Test skipper Hashim Amla to score heavily on dry wickets that are expected to
be tailor-made for India's spinners.
De Villiers and Amla have scored 44 Test
centuries between them - more than the entire young Indian team under Kohli has
managed in their short careers so far.
While de Villiers is in stupendous form,
Amla will seek to overcome a lean streak in the one-day series where he scored
just 89 runs at an average of 17.80.
Amla, one of the finest batsmen of our
times, has in the past enjoyed playing in India where in six previous Tests he
scored 823 runs at an average of 102.87 with four centuries.
Meanwhile, India return to the comforting
environs of a home Test for the first time in two years after being battered in
England, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand on recent tours.
India enjoy an impressive record on home
soil where they have won 12 of the last 17 series and lost just one - against
Alastair Cook's England in 2012.
Kohli's men carved out a credible 2-1 win
in Sri Lanka in August after losing the first Test, but South Africa will be a
With three spinners in their ranks and pace
spearhead Ishant Sharma serving a one-Test ban for bad behaviour during the
last match in Sri Lanka, India hope to get a turning wicket in Mohali.
The Indian team management was annoyed at
being presented with a run-laden pitch for the deciding one-dayer in Mumbai
last month, where South Africa won by 214 runs after piling up a massive 438-4.
India's chief grounds inspector Daljit
Singh, asked about the likely nature of pitches for the Tests, responded:
"We are working on result-oriented wickets with the element of home
India (from): Virat Kohli (captain), Murali
Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma,
Wriddhiman Saha, Ravindra Jadeja, Amit Mishra, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ravichandran
Ashwin, Umesh Yadav, Lokesh Rahul, Stuart Binny, Varun Aaron.
South Africa (from): Hashim Amla (captain),
AB de Villiers, Temba Bavuma, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Dean Elgar, Simon
Harmer, Imran Tahir, Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander, Dane Piedt, Kagiso Rabada,
Dale Steyn, Stiaan van Zyl, Dane Vilas.