'I had it all worked out in my mind' - Karthik
Virender Sehwag said that the Indian team would take tremendous confidence from their victory in the Pro20 game, and praised both his bowlers and batsmen for the six-wicket victory at the Wanderers.
"We clicked in both batting and bowling," said Sehwag. "It's a team game, doesn't matter who performs. An Indian win is what matters."
It was India's first experience of the Twenty20 format, with the inaugural World Cup less than a year away, and Sehwag was delighted with the experience. "It's an exciting form of the game and it's very fast-paced," he said. "You can learn with experience, and I'm sure that the Indian public will enjoy it when it's held there."
Sehwag added that India's first domestic Twenty20 tournament would help in popularising the format. "It's important to play it at the domestic level because you can't go into the World Cup next year without experience. The selectors too can gauge which are the Twenty20 players."
Dinesh Karthik, whose unbeaten 31 fetched him the master blaster award, basked in the glow of the performance. A six off the first ball of the final over bowled by Robin Peterson set up the win, and Karthik suggested that it had been part of the plan, with nine needed from six balls. "I was confident that I could pull off a big shot," he said. "I had it all worked out in my mind. I knew there were a couple of areas where to hit."
Karthik indicated that India had always been in control of the run chase. "It was important that someone put up their hand and did well," he said. "Viru gave us a good start and Dinesh [Mongia] played very well and consolidated. It was important to get off to a good start and from there on, we did pretty well."
Karthik has played as a specialist batsman on the tour, with Mahendra Singh Dhoni keeping his place behind the stumps, and he distinguished himself with some superb stops in the outfield today. "The team management told me that I would be required and what was expected of me, and I prepared well," he said. "It was fantastic of them to tell me what was expected of me.
"I really worked hard on my fielding and the results were there. I don't want to be a liability on the field. I want to make sure that I'm one of the top three fielders in India. Even if I play as a batsman, I can stop runs in the field.
"If I was competing as a wicketkeeper, my mindset would be different, but now as I'm competing as a batsman I have more opportunity to do well. I have six slots to push myself into the team."
Sehwag had to face the inevitable questions about being stripped of the vice-captaincy for the Test series. "I don't feel any pressure," he said, when asked how he had responded. "If I'm not vice-captain, it does not matter. I'm happy with whatever the selectors have decided."
VVS Laxman, who will now be Rahul Dravid's deputy in the Tests, arrived in Johannesburg on Friday morning, and Sehwag said that his arrival would give the team a boost. When asked to comment on Sourav Ganguly's selection in the squad, he suggested that too much shouldn't be made of it. "He'll come in like any other member [of the team]," he said. "There will be no special treatment. His record is very good, and he's played here before. He knows how to handle pressure at any time."
Dileep Premachandran is features editor of Cricinfo