Smith promises aggression
South Africa's one-day series win over Australia last March reaffirmed their strength on home soil, but Graeme Smith insisted that there would be no trace of complacency against India as his team came back to the scene of that world-record chase. He also didn't read too much into India's defeat in the warm-up match, where Dale Steyn's bustling pace triggered a top-order collapse.
"We analysed the Indian batting but obviously they will be a lot better prepared for Sunday," he said. "The Indians haven't performed well in South Africa in the past but this is a pretty new squad. We are confident about our abilities in our country but we also respect the Indians a lot."
Smith suggested that a repeat of the March run-fest was unlikely, given the cloudy conditions, though he added that the Wanderers surface was usually great to bat on. "Yesterday, it was damp and [the pitch] needed a day of sunshine but it hasn't got that today because of some more rain. And thunderstorms are forecast for tomorrow. It's going to be a stop-start game."
He ruled out any major changes in the line-up, with the team having reached the last four of the Champions Trophy in India last month. The only discussion was likely to be over whether to play the spinner - Robin Peterson - or supplement the pace attack with either Charl Langeveldt or Andrew Hall.
The selectors would pick the squad for the remaining games after this one, and Smith admitted that it was a slightly bizarre situation. "It looks a little bit weird but I don't think the guys have noticed that much," he said. "Also, we have been together for quite a long time and are comfortable with the set-up.
"We've always enjoyed playing at home, it's something that we love. We didn't play many games at home last year so it's going to be fantastic to be playing in summer. The fans have always supported us."
As for the opposition, Smith reckoned that India were unlikely to play both Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble, even though they were "world-class bowlers". He said: "The Wanderers hasn't been huge for the spinners in one-day games, and we're playing on the same wicket as the one against Australia."
He also flat-batted the predictable question about Sachin Tendulkar, whose last series against South Africa produced just single-digit scores. "He's a world-class batter," he said. "There are a couple of guys against whom you prepare game-plans and hope you can produce them out on the field. Sachin is a key cog in the line-up and if we can put pressure on him, we can get into the middle order quickly. Aggression is part of our attack and it's certainly going to be there tomorrow."
That aggression saw off Australia, with Herschelle Gibbs' wondrous 175 leading the way, and India have their work cut out if South Africa aren't to extend a formidable record of 12 wins and only three defeats dating back more than a decade.
Dileep Premachandran is features editor of Cricinfo