Johannesburg: The Indian cricket team prepared for the One-Day International series against South Africa, by going through a rigorous training session here with captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni promising to dish out “good and exciting cricket” during the tour starting Thursday.
The three ODI series will be followed by two Test matches in what will be India’s first engagement in the post-Sachin Tendulkar era.
Team India arrived here on Monday. Although India are touring with one of their least experienced squads in a long time, what could help them is that six players from the current side toured South Africa in August to play first-class and List A matches. One of the limited-overs games saw Shikhar Dhawan score a brilliant 248.
South Africa struggled to get their batting combination right in the ODI series against Pakistan recently. And India have been a force to reckon with in the shorter format.
“If you love the ball coming on to the bat, that’s what you will see,” Dhoni told reporters on arrival.
With the tour being curtailed at the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s insistence, fans here are reportedly upset, but Dhoni seemed at ease when asked if he was aware of the anger.
“We can arrange a match for the administrators and let them have a go at it,” he said in a lighter vein, referring to the problems between the BCCI and the Cricket South Africa CEO Haroon Lorgat.
“The relationship between the Indian and South African teams has been good. Though we’ve seen a bit of chirping going around, it makes cricket interesting. The guys have not become too personal, which means we will have a good series. Whenever we have come here, we’ve got fantastic reception. I don’t think that will really change,” he said.
India’s coach Duncan Fletcher is hopeful of India living up to the challenge. “The way the guys have played recently, they’ve got a lot of confidence. Our batting seems technically equipped. The only thing is the experience. But this lot is confident, they have no baggage and they really believe in themselves.”
What was supposed to be bumper schedule of two T20s, seven ODIs and three Tests had been curtailed to only three one-dayers and two Tests.
Fans have already taken to social media platforms to express their displeasure. Asked what would they do if objects were thrown at them during matches Dhoni said: “We’ll pick it up and give it back. That’s all we can do.”
While South Africa’s Test captain Graeme Smith has called for an end to two-Test series and asking them to play more in the longest format, Dhoni refused to be drawn into doing the same.
“I don’t pay that much attention to how many games we are playing. We have a busy schedule and it’s a schedule we need to respect. What we have on our hands are three ODIs and two Tests, so we will look to make the most of it and move on to the next series.”
“To come out here and play in South Africa against this opposition, the players get a feel for the way they play cricket here. Psychologically it’s quite an advantage,” Fletcher said of the team members who had been here in August.
Meanwhile, Dhoni sprung a surprise as he underwent batting practice at the nets here with red Kookaburra balls just two days before the ODI series where white balls will be used.
Dhoni's surprise move to face red Kookaburra balls at the fag end of the Indian team's second practice session after arriving here left one wonder whether he was thinking of the Test series after the ODI contest or was it an exercise to address his weakness against the moving quick ball.