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Distracted South Africa face tough task in India

Last updated on: February 4, 2010 14:23 IST

'Our preparation time in India will be crucial'



South Africa are faced with the daunting prospect of taking on top-ranked India on their home soil just days after long-serving coach Mickey Arthur resigned.

The entire selection committee was sacked after Arthur quit citing differences with the board following the drawn series against England, disrupting their preparations for the Two-test series between the world's top ranked teams.

"Naturally it has been emotional for us because Mickey's been a part of our lives for five years and has made a big impact," skipper Graeme Smith said at the start of the tour.

"Our preparation time in India will be crucial and we'll need to settle down quickly," he added.

Image: South Africa captain Graeme Smith
Photographs: Reuters

Proteas keen to reclaim top ranking

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The first Test starts in Nagpur on Saturday and the final Test will be held in Kolkata from February 14-18.

India displaced South Africa at the top of the Test rankings after securing a 2-0 victory over Sri Lanka in December but Smith said his side is keen to reclaim pole position under interim coach Corrie van Zyl with a 2-0 series victory.

The tourists settled down with useful two-day tour game against an Indian Board President's XI after Smith stated on arrival that his side would test India's credentials as the leading test side.

Image: Graeme Smith

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South Africa will rely on pace

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South Africa will rely on express pace once again to give them an edge with the experienced Dale Steyn spearheading a spirited attack.

Steyn has good memories of the local pitches, taking five wickets for 23 runs to help blow India away for 76 in their first innings and set up a South Africa victory in the second Test in Ahmedabad on their previous visit two years ago.

Spin-strong India squared the series by winning the third and final Test on an unpredictable pitch in Kanpur.

Image: Dale Steyn

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India struggling with injuries

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The Indian media has drummed up a frenzy around the hurriedly put-together series, billing it as the final of the unofficial world championship of Test cricket.

However, the hosts are struggling with injuries that have already ruled experienced batsmen Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh out of the series.

Number three Dravid, an accomplished player of pace bowling, sustained a fractured jaw after being struck by a Shahadat Hossain bouncer in the second Bangladesh Test last month that put him out of action for three weeks.

Yuvraj suffered a wrist injury in the same series, leaving India's normally strong batting line-up looking brittle against a world-class South African pace attack.

There are also injury concerns over batsman VVS (finger) and Rohit Sharma has been called as cover.

India routed Bangladesh 2-0 for a winning start to the year with spearhead Zaheer Khan reaching top form, by claiming 15 wickets.

"You have to admit that South Africa is a very good Test side. But if we play to our potential and to our ability, we can beat any side... that's our biggest strength," off-spinner Harbhajan Singh said.

Image: Team India

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