Fighting to draw level in a series is not an unfamiliar proposition for team India. They have come back from behind before. But so far, they have not been able to meet such a challenge on the treacherous wickets of South Africa. India will have to do their darnedest to square the ODI series and prevent themselves from being consumed by the vigorous machinations of history once again.
With the starting-up blues out of the way, the touring side must use the conditions to their advantage, rather than just meekly surrender to them. The pace bowlers will have to bowl as a cohesive attacking unit once again. There can not be any obvious weak links as was the case with Ashish Nehra in the opener at Durban. Given the likelihood that captain M S Dhoni will play his three front-line seamers again, Nehra and Munaf Patel will do well to take a leaf out of Zaheer Khan's book.
Short-a-length balls coupled with the full-and-straight should be the order of the day if India is to unsettle the Proteas batsmen and pin them down. While the margin for error on bowler-friendly strips, as expected with the one in Jo'burg on Saturday, is usually quite broad, the Indian line-and-length will have to be spot-on with not too much waywardness outside the off-stump.
But the onus mainly falls on the visiting batsmen to turn around the series. Murali Vijay and Yuvraj Singh's dismissals in the last match showed how vulnerable the batters are when they keep their feet rooted. A lot more shifting and shuffling, rocking on the backfoot and stepping on the front foot and so on will be required if the line-up is to temper and smother the pace and bounce of South Africa's speedsters. Indeed, India's top and middle order will have to follow the example of Virat Kohli if they are to come out tops in the second match.
India can make a comeback in this series. They did it in the 2003 World Cup after a similarly disturbing start to their campaign where they conceded over 250 and then crumbled to a meagre total to lose the match by over 100 runs. But if they are to effect that turnaround, the players who have spent the last three weeks acclimatising to South African conditions like Tendulkar, Dhoni and Harbahjan Singh, will have to lead from the front.
It's high time India turned history on its head and showed the Proteas what they are made of. The visitors' fans will certainly be hoping they do so at Jo'burg.