Dale Steyn has suggested that India’s batting order does not pose the same explosive threat as it did when the likes of Virender Sehwag was still playing.
South Africa have not been scared to dish out some subtle jibes at India on the eve of the first Test, which starts in Mohali on Thursday.
While Steyn has played down the favourites tag that the Indian media wanted to hang around their neck, it is worth remembering that South Africa are unbeaten in an away Test series for the last nine years.
There is certainly confidence among their ranks that they can cope with the big challenge that awaits, and while the Proteas are not generally known for their mind games, some of the players have managed to take some gentle digs at the home side.
‘I don’t think we are favourites,’ Steyn said. ‘It is going to be extremely difficult in their back garden. We come into the series with a lot of expectation, so we have confidence. I personally enjoy the Tests more than anything else. We’ve come up with some good game plans. We have a great bowling attack and a fantastic batting line-up. We’re up for it.’
Steyn will arguably be South Africa’s most important bowler in the subcontinent and has an excellent track record in those conditions. But he has noted that the current Indian batting line-up does not have the same punch of past teams.
‘In past times that I’ve played here, I bowled against guys like Virender Sehwag. That guy was a nightmare to bowl to. If you missed your mark by just that much he would smoke you. I feel India’s batting line-up now is slightly different. The two opening batters let you bowl to them a little bit more. But when they are both in form they are really difficult players to bowl to, but not as hectic as someone like Sehwag, who would blaze from ball one.’
What Steyn seems to be suggesting is that India possess less of an explosive threat compared to years gone by which, in many ways, should be a relief. However, it might also mean the batsmen give less away, taking fewer risks and thereby giving the bowlers less of an opening to claim a wicket.
Both teams would have done their homework on the opposition, but Steyn suggested it wasn’t always as complicated as people make it out to be.
‘We do a lot of homework. How have the batsmen gone out, especially in their last 10 innings. Is there a pattern that have build up? It’s not rocket science. Jacques Kallis always used to say top of off-stump with the odd bouncer to any batter in the world is really difficult. That’s generally it, really.
‘You get a guy like Sachin [Tendulkar], when you get a ball on off-stump to Sachin in the past he’ll hit you through point. If you bowl top of off to Murali Vijay he’ll probably hit you through the covers. It’s important to know where you want your fielders to be. The delivery stays the same but the batsman’s shot making will change. So it’s about getting into the batsmen’s head a little bit, looking at past dismissals and letting him know that you know exactly where he is uncomfortable.’