The start of every tour is exciting but the forthcoming series against India is amongst the eagerly anticipated of my career. Indian cricket is undoubtedly on the rise and there isn't much doubt that the Test squad deserved a share of the Aussie series a couple of months ago..
We all watched India tackle the Aussies head on and, controversies aside, there was some tremendous cricket played, especially by India. Although we were in the middle of a series against West Indies and still had a tour of Bangladesh to come, we couldn't help thinking ahead to this tour and looking forward to it.
I have nothing but happy memories of touring India, even though we lost the last series we played. After an elongated draw in Kanpur we were outplayed at Eden Gardens and went down 1-0. From a personal perspective, however, scoring a century at the Asian 'home of cricket' remains one of my career highlights.
I will be fascinated to see whether the pitches for the three Tests will be prepared to favour seam or spin. Which way would India be tempted to go?
With Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh in the squad, will they be the match winners on dry, dusting pitches? Or does the 'arrival' of Ishant Sharma on the scene mean that, along with Sreesanth and Irfan Pathan, India will expect their fast bowlers to take most wickets?
If I was forced to guess then I expect the 'status quo' will remain – in other words, the spinners will get their way! It is not just the quality and experience of the India spin attack which the home side need to consider but the quality of the South African pace attack.
Dale Steyn has been a phenomenal performer this season winning the man of the series in all three Test series we have played. His strike rate is amongst the best of all time and the bad news for India (hopefully!) is that the pitch has nothing to do with his success because it is his pace and swing through the air which are his greatest weapons.
Morne Morkel is no less talented but a very different sort of fast bowler. Being as tall as he is, he is able to extract bounce from the flattest of pitches and he also has a devastating yorker which he uses as a surprise weapon to great effect. They both play for the Titan franchise at home, they are of a similar age and they are great friends. Injuries and form permitting, they could well become a South African institution for many years to come – the new Donald & Pollock, perhaps?
And then, of course, there is Makhaya, a living legend. He still has many, many miles left in his engine and his experience on the subcontinent will be vital. Behind them, of course, there is a bloke called Kallis who might be able to find a bit of reverse swing in the middle of the day when the ball's a bit older. If it swings as much as it did in Bangladesh recently then I might even pick up a few wickets!
Another fascinating aspect of the series will be the presence of Gary Kirsten and Paddy Upton in the opposition changing room. Gary said recently that he wouldn't really be able to influence the tactics against specific players very much because much of the South African team had moved on since he retired in 2004. Well, I haven't moved on and Gary knows my game intimately!
Because we both live in Cape Town and played for Western Province, Gary played a huge role in my career, particularly the formative years when I was just starting out. He was a role model and mentor, later to become one of my best friends. I'm not sure how I'll react when I first see him again, wearing Indian team kit, but I have no doubt at all about how he will react – with complete and total control and professionalism. I wonder whether he'll accept the offer if I invite him for a beer after a day's play?
I had to smile when Gary was appointed coach of India. My first thought was how Hansie Cronje used to tell him off for enjoying the batting of Sachin Tendulkar and Mohammed Azharuddin. Gary used to stand at mid on and become lost in a dream world of admiration. The more our bowlers suffered, the more enchanted Gary became!
I hope he has many more such days in the next two years - but starting in about a month's time!
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