The problem with producing an innings as amazing as Virender Sehwag did in Chennai is that everybody expects you to do it again!
The eyes and ears of the cricket playing world will be focussed on Viru over the next couple of days, never mind his millions of Indian admirers.
I have no doubt that he will happily and easily accept this situation and won't feel any extra pressure – at least, not until he walks out to bat and is preparing to face his first ball. It takes skill and training to clear the mind before and during sports events
when the adrenalin is pumping and muscles become tense. Sometimes, try as we might to ignore it, we all fall victim to 'the occasion' and make a mistake.
The other thing I have learned is that when a single player attracts so much attention before an important game, it invariably creates a 'smokescreen' allowing someone unexpected to slip under the radar with a match-winning contribution.
The truth is, I don't honestly believe that India and South Africa could ever select anyone in their starting XI who isn't capable of being a match-winner. Numbers 1-11 in both teams will have had experience of winning matches with bat or ball and all are capable of repeating the feat in a Test match.
Sachin's injury is a sad blow for both sides. India's loss is obvious – he is just 172 runs away from being the most prolific run-scorer of all time and he has 39 Test centuries. But I also feel a
sense of disappointment that he won't be there because competing against India with Sachin in the XI is just a bit more 'special' than when he is missing. I thoroughly enjoy the sense of awe that he commands on the field.
We were pleasantly surprised by our first look at the pitch on Tuesday morning. Far from under-preparing the wicket the head groundsman seems to have done everything he could to produce a fair surface. The pessimists in our squad were predicting a dry, cracked
pitch before the match even started but that was not the case. I heard the groundsman quoted as saying that 'a pitch was not just for 11 or 22 players, it was for all the other people involved who want to see a good game.' Good for him!
However, I have also been told that this is the first Test match out of nine at this stadium to be played in the summer months and several locals have told us that it really is too hot to play cricket at this times of the year. No matter how much water is on the pitch before the start, after three days of 40 degree temperatures the pitch is bound to have dried out. No wonder the spinners are looking forward to the last couple of days!
The bonus for us is that the heat is 'dry' unlike in Chennai where the humidity made life very hard, especially for those of us who sweat a lot! But dry heat is typical of the majority of South Africa (Durbanis the only exception) so we will be more comfortable here.
As a team we have been looking forward to the challenges of this series for four or five months, right from the beginning of our season. Now that we are in the thick of it, we are as excited as ever.
Now all I need to do, from a personal point of view, is spend a few hours at the crease and make some runs. I can't wait.
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