Chappell's contribution will be vital in South Africa
I believe that the Indian team must look to Greg Chappell to guide them through this tough tour to South Africa. Chappell has got it in him to mentally prepare this Indian team for the aggression which would come from the South Africans. We all know his background and we all know how the Australians think. Being a typical Australian, it's in-built in him to be hard and tough.
Despite a few notable wins abroad in this decade, the Indians have never been good travellers. They sometimes appear so soft and laidback that they get threatened by the aggressiveness of the Australians and the South Africans. If the players do not get rid of that attitude, they are going to get a hiding wherever they go. Chappell has a big role to play in getting the Indian team to be hard and tough. I think if he instils that attitude then India can beat any side away from home. They have the players in their ranks.
I have been amused by all the criticism directed at Chappell and his experiments. Knowing how the Australians think, I feel he has been trying to take a few of the Indians out of their comfort zone, and shake those cricketers who were happy with their performces and were not willing to go the extra mile. Chappell's experiments must have been intended to make the cricketers think on their feet. The softness and the shyness of the Indian cricketers is perhaps what he has been trying to eliminate.
I feel it is important that the captain must buy into the coach's thinking. I have played under a few of the very best captains and coaches of the world and they all tended to lead from the front. Starting with Kepler Wessels and Hansie Cronje and knowing what influence Bob Woolmer had on all of us, I am saying this from experience.
Even though Rahul Dravid has appeared laidback to me, we South Africans rate him very, very highly. He is one guy we used to discuss in team meeting a lot because he always does well in South Africa. He just values his wicket so highly. So if that's Chappell's plans then Dravid must relay this to his team quickly. There's little doubt in my mind that this tour is going to be very tough for him.
When we come from India, we always promise ourselves that they will find it a very different story in South Africa. I don't expect anything less this time around. I think South Africa will be very aggressive. I don't think they will prepare green pitches. The strips in any case have been good, perhaps too good in the last four-five years. One thing South Africa might like to ensure is that pitches are not too perfect and right up India's street.
They will be very aggressive but it's also important to channel that aggression. I think the South African bowling, in the last year and a half, has not shown the kind of patience they need to. Sometimes the skill factor has also let them down. They have depended too heavily on Shaun Pollock and Makhaya Ntini.
The Indian bowlers can all swing the ball and that's going to be a test for the South Africans. I am not so sure about Zaheer Khan at the moment as he still looks to be trying to find his feet. He is certainly not the Zaheer Khan I know. Still, he has got great control and he swings it late. Sreesanth, though, has got lovely action, and he looks a hungry cricketer, and someone who could go a long way in the future. He seems to enjoy his cricket and appears very uncomplicated. He has an injury-free action and I am very impressed by him.