(Former India captain and chief selector Kris Srikkanth, IBN World Cup Cricket Expert, is contributing exclusively for IBNLive Sports. Catch him Live in pre- and post-match shows throughout the ICC World Cup 2015 only on CNN-IBN and IBN7)
MS Dhoni may be facing consistency issues with his pacers and mulling who to play and who not, but if he were to take the advice of former India captain and 1983 World Cup-winner Krishnamachari Srikkanth, India should bombard South Africa with spin.
India played with offspinner R Ashwin and left-armer Ravindra Jadeja against Pakistan, but Srikkanth went a step further saying India should drop a fast bowler and include a third spinner in the eleven.
"I personally believe, in this particular match [against South Africa], I would rather play three spinners and probably drop one medium pacer. Axar Patel, I believe, is a very good spinner in one-day format. He has got good economy rate, and I think Ravindra Jadeja is not a bad bowler. The poor guy is down with injury. I am sure if he is back to normal, he can bowl well," the former chief selector said.
But there's another school of thought that feels Jadeja is at most a container, but Srikkanth has no problem with that.
"That's okay," he said. "That's what we want. In the middle overs, they [South Africa] are not going to give you wickets. You have to entice the batsmen to throw away their wickets. You're not going to have slips or a forward short-leg or a silly point [in the middle overs]. You are hoping to bowl tight, contain them, so that they throw wickets away."
India, on the other hand, have their own batting worries. Barring the game against Pakistan, which India won to open their title defence, batting didn't click in the Carlton Mid tri-series, which will be worrying Dhoni, who himself is struggling for runs.
To this, Srikkanth said batsmen will have to take the responsibility.
"At the 2011 World Cup, I was physically present there as chairman of selectors. And we were off to a rollicking start [against SA]. We were 267 for 1 and from there if you fold up for 296, you can't blame anybody but the batting. So I think it's the responsibility of the batsmen that if they get a good start, to pile up a big total."
How to play Dale Steyn?
"I think India have to follow two kind of tactics," he explained. "One is probably for the first few overs wait and watch, 7 or 8 overs. But at the same time you cannot be overcautious too.
"There are three times when Steyn will come on to bowl. I assume he will bowl a spell of 4-2-4. He will come in between for two overs and try to take a few wickets. So I think the best way to handle him is first four overs, don't lose wickets and don't be overcautious. But in the second and the third spell, one batsman should try and go after him. He is the kind of bowler that when you go after him, he sometimes loses his rhythm," the Tamil Nadu man said.
India haven't beaten South Africa in three World Cup meetings. Will that weigh on their minds? Srikkanth says no.
"I won't say [having not beaten South Africa in World Cup is a psychological block] that exactly. I think we should now every time look at it as a new match. Performance on a particular day counts. Yes, if we go by record, 3-0, we can say whatever we want. But we should not forget that the South African bowling is nothing deadly, especially if you see off Steyn and Morkel. In the middle overs, you can go after them," he said.
There was a lot of hue and cry over omitting Yuvraj Singh from India's World Cup squad, with some saying Suresh Raina can play that role. But Srikkanth is not sure about that.
"I have heard Suresh Raina is trying to do it, but I don't know if he is that good a bowler like Yuvraj. Raina can be a useful bowler, 'useful bowler' is the right term, and a brilliant fielder. But batting, I would like to see him score runs against real quality fast bowling. At that point I would say, yes, he can do a Yuvraj. May be this match we will see."
Quickly shifting gears, Srikkanth hoped Indian bowlers turn up just like they did against Pakistan.
"The bowling coach can do his job, but at the end of the day the bowlers will have to deliver on the field. Yes, our bowling is a weak link. Last match the medium pacers surprised us. They bowled very well. If they are able to bowl a good line-and-length attack like what they did against Pakistan, then I think we should have SA little bit stuck."
Not Virat Kohli, not Rohit Sharma, not MS Dhoni, Srikkanth picked Ajinkya Rahane as the man to watch, and he had his reasons for it. "The key player for India in this match, I think, is going to be Ajinkya Rahane," the former opener said. "He has done well against South Africa in South Africa. So he should be coming in at No. 4 and he will be able to deliver."
"I will say it's a 50:50 game," Srikkanth said when asked to predict, adding, "I am not trying to be diplomatic."
"I would say, yes, on paper South Africa may be a far superior side but then don't forget Indians also have it in them, because I still believe South Africa does not have a terrific bowling line-up," he signed off.
Brief Bio: Part of the Kapil-Dev led 1983 World Cup-winning Indian team, Krishnamachari Srikkanth played 43 Tests and 146 ODIs from 1981 to 1992, including a stint as captain, and went on to be appointed as the chief of BCCI selection panel post retirement. He has also taken the following three educational initiatives under his leadership.