Johannesburg: India believe it will be better prepared than on any previous tour of South Africa when a two-month campaign gets underway on Monday.
The Indian team will have spent a full week preparing in the thin air of the South African high veld and on pitches with more bounce than it is used to at home, before taking the field for a low-key tour opener against a Nicky Oppenheimer XI at the mining magnates private ground at Randjesfontein, north of Johannesburg, Monday. The Indians also hope to be at peak fitness, with key players Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Kumble and Javagal Srinath fully recovered from injuries, which kept them out of a recent series against Sri Lanka. Ironically, both Tendulkar and Kumble were treated at a sports injury clinic in Johannesburg. Spinner Kumble underwent surgery to his right shoulder from sports surgeon Mark Fergusson in January, while Tendulkar was fitted with specially-designed foot supports after being diagnosed with a hairline fracture of his right foot at the same clinic in August. India will compete with Kenya and the host country in a triangular Limited Overs series. Each team will play six round robin matches with the top two qualifying for a final in Durban on October 26. On two previous tours, the Indian batsmen were overwhelmed by South Africa's fast bowlers but of the three Test venues only Centurion is likely to give any marked help to pace bowling. It will also be a change for India to go into the Test series after more than a month of action in South Africa. On previous tours, the Tests were played before the One-day Internationals. "We shall have enough time to get used to the conditions," said Indian captain Saurav Ganguly, who said he was confident his team could stand up to South Africa, the worlds second-ranked Test nation. The match against the Oppenheimer XI will give the Indians a chance to get in some match practice against some useful fast bowlers, including Mornantau Hayward, who played for South Africa two seasons ago before losing form. Other useful pace bowlers in the Oppenheimer team are Garnett Kruger and Albie Morkel. The invitation side includes left-arm spinner Goolam Bodi, who was born in India but grew up in South Africa. Bodi was picked to join the South African team in the West Indies earlier this year as a replacement for injured Nicky Boje, but was himself injured in an English league club match on the day he was due to fly to the Caribbean. The Indians will have to step up a gear when they meet South Africa 'A' in Benoni Wednesday, with the side including several players with full international experience, including fast bowler Mfuneko Ngam, who made a sensational debut for South Africa last season before being ruled out by a stress fracture in his right thigh. He underwent shoulder surgery and Wednesday will be his first competitive appearance since then. The triangular series starts when India meet South Africa at the Wanderers in a day- night match in Johannesburg on Friday (October 5).
| Copyright AFP 2001 |