De Villiers plays down influence of spin
Touring the subcontinent brings sharp focus on a team's ability to tackle spin. South Africa have not backed down from that challenge and, judging from the Dharamsala and Cuttack T20Is, AB de Villiers has suggested spin has not been the deciding factor it was made out to be.
"I honestly don't think spin has been a theme of the series so far," he said. "Our seamers were the ones that won us the two T20s. But saying that, India have got really good spinners in their team and we are expecting the wickets to get slower and turn more as we move on in the series."
Should that be the case, someone of the caliber of R Ashwin can become very threatening. Ashwin has dismissed de Villiers two out of two times in the tour so far. So is the South African captain worried?
"I don't feel he got me out in either of the two games. I got myself out in both the games," De Villiers said. "When you start getting technical flaws against a bowler, then you have to worry about it. But I was looking to dominate against him. The last time I got a little bit lazy perhaps, played for spin, but it didn't get spin. So there is not much to worry about. Except for the fact that he is a world-class bowler and needs to be respected."
The progress of their training session in Kanpur also indicated South Africa want to be ready to unsettle a spinner when the need arises. De Villiers spent much of his net session whacking the slow bowlers over their heads while JP Duminy, the Man of the Series from the T20Is, entertained himself with some sweeps and reverse sweeps. Additionally, Green Park Stadium has rather small boundaries. It also has a flat deck, with just enough grass to prevent it from breaking up too badly. So there should not be many instances of a batsman thinking twice before going on the attack.
"The wicket that is out there, that I saw, doesn't look like that [a turner]," De Villiers said. "Looks like a really good cricket wicket. Expect normal spin. Nothing out of this world."
So South Africa will likely bank on the returning Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel to pull some rabbits out of the hat. Both bowlers have not been in action at international cricket since August.
"It's Nice to have Morne and Dale back. They bring a lot of experience to the side. Haven't seen them for a while now so they will be fresh as well," de Villiers said. "Very excited to see them run in to bowl tomorrow. They are looking in really good form. Especially Morne who will be playing his 100th [sic 98th] ODI for South Africa tomorrow so we are all very happy for him. It's a great achievement."
In their absence, Kyle Abbott has made an excellent case to be a first-choice pick and at practice, it seemed he was among their frontline death bowlers. The story goes that Lasith Malinga practiced his yorkers with a boot placed in front of the stumps. Abbott had a football to target while refining his wide and leg-stump toecrushers. "We've got a very good, balanced bowling attack," de Villiers said confidently. "We've got guys who can swing it, guys who can move it off the seam and we've got good spin bowlers. We've got an offspinner, a legspinner, and Phangiso as a [left-arm] option so we cover all bases."
South Africa also have momentum now. "We have won the T20 series 2-0, I don't think a lot of people expected that. We'd love to do a similar kind of thing in the ODIs. We know it's not going to be easy. Five ODIs in India, lots of travelling, lots of different wickets, different grounds. It's going to be challenging, but we've got every form of momentum on our side and we are hoping take that into tomorrow."
Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo