| Graeme Smith inspects the Green Park pitch on Friday. (PTI)
Kanpur: Eight years ago, despite stars, South Africa failed to score 200 even once and lost big. Back at the Green Park, the Proteans will be looking to substantially improve on that performance under the late Hansie Cronje.
And, whatever India's recent showing, current captain Graeme Smith has acknowledged the hosts start 'favourites' in the two-Test series for the Videocon Cup. 'We're up against a powerful team,' he remarked on Friday afternoon.
Cronje's men overwhelmed a low-on-confidence India, in the 1999-2000 series, but even if the dashing Herschelle Gibbs was around, Smith would have been pushed to dream of doing a Cronje.
The favourites bit, then, is understandable.
Sourav Ganguly, however, isn't taking anything for granted. 'The South Africans may be short on experience, but not on ability... Inexperience doesn't take away the quality of a player,' the Team India captain reminded.
Relaxed thanks to Appeals Commissioner Tim Castle's heartening move to hear him after the first Test, Sourav made the point about this series being a 'big' one and that the team played to win 'every single time.'
But if Castle has taken much of the pressure off for the next five days, tonight at least, Sourav isn't going to have the most peaceful sleep. He is, after all, caught in a bind: Having to choose between Murali Kartik, MoM in the last Test, and Irfan Pathan.
'If the wicket is bone dry, I'll definitely go with all three spinners (others being Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh). Or else, Irfan is going to partner Zaheer (Khan)... Frankly, at this moment, my own mind isn't made up,' he told The Telegraph late in the evening.
Coach John Wright is as 'confused'. 'Look, if we go one way, I'm sure there will be moments when a third spinner is going to be missed... Equally, if we go the other way, there are bound to be situations when a second specialist new ball bowler could be missed...'
Should all three spinners feature in the XI, Sourav will share the new ball with Zaheer. It's worth noting the South Africans were clueless versus the spinners in Jaipur, during their tour-opener.
The wicket, by the way, is sans grass and multiple cracks are visible. It's anybody's guess whether the Test is going to go the distance. 'At some stage, it will turn... Hopefully, the wicket is going to add value to the players' performances,' Smith observed.
Mohammed Kaif, more familiar with the Green Park than anybody else, felt the ball 'will surely keep low.'
Actually, losing the toss won't probably harm the Indians ' given that the South Africans only have one specialist spinner in left-armer Robin Peterson ' but the same can be catastrophic for Smith.
What's confirmed is that UP's sole representative in the squad, Kaif, has to sit out. That can't be avoided as a middle-order berth has to be vacated for Sourav, returning after missing the Nagpur and Mumbai Tests through injury.
If Kaif had to be retained, the opening combination would have to be re-cast. Moreover, who would open if Gautam Gambhir got dropped'
Gambhir had a poor debut, in Mumbai, but got a boost after the team meeting when Sourav took him aside and said: 'All the best.. Bindaas batting karna... Samjhe...'
The South Africans, one learns, are going to pick from XIII as just Alphonso Thomas isn't in contention. The squad has three other rookies, including wicketkeeper Thami Tsolekile, who has to get capped.
Asked about the USP of the South Africans, Smith proudly declared: 'Motivation, hunger, talent...' To be competitive, the visitors simply have to draw on all three in a significant manner.
Meanwhile, the craze for tickets in dusty and generally disorganised Kanpur ' quality hotels, for example, don't exist except the one hosting the teams ' has reached one-day levels. Indeed, thousands queued outside Green Park throughout the day.
One hopes the quality of cricket will whet the fans' appetite.
INDIA: Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, V.V.S. Laxman, Dinesh Karthik, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Murali Kartik/Irfan Pathan, Zaheer Khan.
SOUTH AFRICA (from): Graeme Smith (captain), Jacques Rudolph, Jacques Kallis, Boeta Dippenaar, Justin Ontong, Shaun Pollock, Thami Tsolekile, Makhaya Ntini, Andrew Hall, Martin van Jaarsveld, Robin Peterson, Hashim Amla, Zander de Bruyn.
Umpires: Daryl Harper, Simon Taufel; (TV) A.V. Jayaprakash.
Match Referee: Jeff Crowe.