Durban: “There’s no doubt that we can beat India... One loss doesn’t make us a bad team... It’s just that we’ve got to work very hard,” declared South African captain Graeme Smith, fresh from a short break in Knysna (near George), where there was a family reunion to celebrate father Graham’s birthday.
“We’ve been honest in admitting we didn’t play well in the first Test (at the Wanderers)... That’s enough pressure on ourselves, but there’s no reason why we can’t turn it around... That’s heartening,” he said on Saturday afternoon.
The second (and penultimate) Test begins at Kingsmead on Tuesday.
“A lot of crap (criticism in the Media) has been going on this week, but I kept myself busy with a few things... In fact, I needed time for myself and had some sessions with Jimmy (Cook)... When you don’t feel comfortable, you end up searching,” Smith added.
After a disappointing one-day series, he managed only 5 and 10 in the first Test.
Hurt by flak over the 123-run defeat, Smith argued: “Quality doesn’t change... Till the other day, people were raving about our attack in the ODIs... Then, after one match, they’ve begun to question it... Of course, I accept that our execution of plans, both in batting and bowling, wasn’t good.”
He continued: “We pride ourselves on our performances at home... The public is quite demanding, but that shows it cares... This is a difficult time, with everybody in the holiday mood, but we won’t be losing focus... Our application has to be greater and we’re working towards that...”
According to Smith, the South Africans will have to be “clinical and precise” besides, obviously, fighting it out. “(Shaun Pollock) Polly and I were having a chat and he pointed out instances when we’ve come back from 0-1 down... I know we need to improve and won’t be going by past records in Durban... They’re out of the window...”
Thanks to centurion-on-debut Pravin Amre, India drew the Test in 1992-93. Four seasons later, though, Mohammed Azharuddin’s team got one of the biggest thrashings. Kingsmead didn’t host a Test on the 2001-02 tour.
Smith indicated that AB De Villiers is going to partner him at the very top, with the out-of-form Herschelle Gibbs dropping down the order. Dale Steyn, meanwhile, is to undergo a fitness test on Sunday.
On Saturday, the wicket appeared to have less grass and seemed bereft of moisture. In Smith’s opinion, it “always played well” and one knew “what to expect.”
Footnote: Smith and the stunning Minki, one of the hottest models in South Africa, have split. “We’ve gone different ways... I’m not thinking of settling down in the very near future... I’m just 25, after all!” he told The Telegraph.