Since South Africa's wickets have a reputation of possessing just the right constituents that cause pace and bounce, the home Test team is most likely to use a fourth seamer in the Test series against India beginning at Centurion on Dec 16th.
The Proteas had a hard time of it trying to deal the decisive blow against Pakistan in their previous two Tests and that was largely due to the fact that they were playing on the calm wickets of the UAE. Now, as they return home, they will no doubt be looking forward to a more lively response from the pitches in their own backyard.
India batsmen who have been accustomed too long to the flat tracks at home will have to brace themselves for a fiery display of fast bowling as they embark on their tour of South Africa. "We will hope for conditions that suit our type of players and our type of bowling should come into it," said the Proteas coach Corrie van Zyl.
Perhaps the knowledge that they are playing in more familiar an responsive conditions would feed a sense of complacency among the South Africans. After all, their great tradition of speedsters was born at home with the likes of Allan Donald, Fanie de Villiers, Shaun Pollock and Brian McMillan.
But now the Proteas are playing with a new set of players, who though maybe rich in ability, are not quite up to par with experience and over-reliance on familiar environment could be a hindrance rather than a strength. "To do that is bit of a Russian roulette approach, and I wouldn't go that far," said Van Zyl. "We don't want to make it a lottery and we don't want the outcome of the series to rest on how the wickets play."
While the South Africa bowlers might not be intimidated by Indian batsmen yet, they know for a fact that in the last couple of years, the Indians have had more opportunities to acclimatise and adapt to South Africa wickets. These chances have comes in the form the IPL, Champions League and Champions trophy. So it certainly won't be that the Indians will be like fish out of water playing on those tracks. "They've obviously had a lot more exposure on our wickets, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating. We'll have to see how well-adapted they are," van Zyl said.
Since South Africa would like to optimise their chances for success, they will be playing a fourth seamer in their starting XI. The three mainstays have been Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Jacques Kallis, but the fourth paceman is as yet, a mystery. Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Wayne Parnell were both part of the UAE tour, but did not feature in either of the two Tests.
But South Africa's most vulnerable spot is its lack of an attacking spinner. Johan Botha and Paul Harris both had a lackluster time with the ball are were inconsistent at best against Pakistan. But since Harris' performance was possibly a tad better than Botha's owing to fact that he had three-wicket burst against Pakistan on the afternoon of the fifth day of the second Test, the former may just edge out the latter to win the sole spot of spinner against India.
India's batting has not been top-notch in recent times and so it is essential that the Proteas field their most effective spin weapon. They could look to the Pakistan-born Imran Tahir, who had taken 30 scalps in four first class games this season, conceding just 22.00 per wicket. Tahir was chosen in Jan this year to play against England but was ineligible to play because he did not have the pre-requisite documentation. Once his papers are in order, he becomes an obvious option.
With so much focus on their bowling, South Africa can't afford to overlook their men holding the willow. Captain Graeme Smith fractured a finger during the series against Pakistan and as a result is likely to miss at least the first Test against India. "I'm hopeful that he will be ready for the first Test. But to say I'm not nervous that he won't be wouldn't be honest," said van Zyl.
Meanwhile, one-down batsman Hashim Amla suffered a serious arm injury when he was hit by Misbah-ul-Haq while fielding at short leg. So, he too is not a certainty. "The blow he took yesterday caused a contusion to his left forearm," the trainer Moosajee said, but added that the on-form Amla "should be fine" in time for the first Test.
Van Zyl also recognised that the one-day series against India which follows the three scheduled Test will be their last opportunity at genuine preparation for the World Cup. "The one-day series will be good preparation for the World Cup. You want to bowl against quality players, and you know the Indian team is a world class unit. If you do well against them you are going to have a lot of confidence going into the World Cup."