Toss crucial, says Dhoni

Pressure on India to perform: SA skipper Smith

“Zaheer is doubtful for the first Test,” Dhoni replied, adding, “We’ll take a call tomorrow morning before the start of the game. As I said, he is quite doubtful for tomorrow.”

While the SuperSport Park surface does wear a greenish look, Dhoni said it was far from the greenest track he had seen in this country. “When we saw the pitch yesterday, it did look green but I don’t think there was enough grass on the wicket. It is a normal Centurion wicket, which means it will assist the fast bowlers. But the greenest track I have seen in South Africa was during the World T20 game against South Africa in Durban in 2007. I don’t think this is anywhere close to that wicket.”

At the same time, Dhoni insisted this was a win-toss, bowl-first strip. “Yesterday we had a look at the wicket from a distance and it looked quite damp, which means without the sun it will still be a bit damp,” said the Indian captain at the team hotel after continual rains forced their scheduled practise session to be cancelled. “The fast bowlers will get something out of it initially. If you win the toss, the game goes in your favour 60 percent, if not more. After that, you have to bowl well on that kind of wicket.”

Refusing to commit on which of Jaidev Undakat or Umesh Yadav would make his debut if Zaheer were to be ruled out, Dhoni noted, “We will have to discuss and see what the best combination will be. Whoever plays, it’s very important to enjoy the game rather than thinking about whom you are replacing. It will be important for him to bowl to his strengths, do what he knows the best, because of which he is a part of the international side.”

Smith’s mind-games

Graeme Smith fired the first salvo in the battle of mind-games by suggesting that India must start winning overseas on a regular basis to justify their number one ranking.

“If you are number one in the world, you’ve got to be consistently performing around the world, there’s no doubt about that,” South Africa’s skipper said on the eve of the first Test. “When Australia had that mantle for a long time, they were successfully beating teams in their own backyard all the time. As much as you want to be strong at home, you have to be strong away from home. That pressure is on India.”

Smith also took a pot-shot at Virender Sehwag’s ordinary record in South Africa as opposed to his exceptional record against the Proteas in India. Since his blazing ton on debut in Bloemfontein in 2001, Sehwag has just 133 runs in eight innings here. “It’s important to note that he has been very successful against us in the sub-continent. On their last tour here, in the last Test, we had him sliding down to number six.

“He’s probably got a few demons that he needs to put right in these conditions. He is a quality player and really does take a lot of pressure off the rest of their line-up with the way he plays. If we can knock him over and put the rest of their line-up under pressure, that will be great. We’ve got to be consistent and create as much pressure on them as possible.”

Comments (+)