Kirsten expects bowling to bounce back
Gary Kirsten has said he trusts his bowling unit, bolstered by the return of a fit and eager Zaheer Khan, to prove the critics wrong. Responding to former South African cricketers' comments on the weak bowling unit and lack of pace, Kirsten said, "Bottom line is, we need to get 20 Test wickets. I think we have shown in the last three years that we have the ability to get 20 Test wickets in any conditions. It's up to us to prove to every one that we can do that here. It's up to us to prove to ourselves too that we can do that. Obviously nice to have Zaheer back. We look forward to whatever conditions are given to us, and we have the quality in our bowling line-up as well."
Going by the first looks, the conditions should assist the bowlers. Kirsten didn't go to the rock-hard and green Kingsmead pitch, but observed from the change room. "Looks a similar colour to the outfield," he said. "Let's see what comes up in two days' time."
If there is rain in the lead-up to the Test, as the groundstaff fear, the pitch will retain a lot of moisture, potentially creating a situation where batting first might be as difficult as it was in Centurion. Kirsten said the batsmen would need to be prepared for such a challenge, applying themselves better.
"We were well prepared for the last Test," he said. "It was a tough wicket to bat on on the first day. We probably let ourselves down a bit. We have got to assess the situation and get the best we can get out of the surface as a batting unit. I felt we were 100 runs short in the last Test, and we have got to apply ourselves. The preparation has been very good. The guys are working as hard as they have ever worked. I am happy from that point of view. At the end of the day they have to get on the field and make a play. The players are determined, they are really motivated to do well. They are going to give it their best shot, that's what we can ask of the players."
Kirsten spoke of the importance of putting up scores close to 400 in the first innings. "We know that if one of our top six is getting a decent score, a big hundred, we are going to get a score in excess of 400," he said. "The guy that's in, and it could be anyone, and can get in and bat for a decent amount of time, that will allow us to get to scores of 400. We know that in Test cricket if you are not around about that mark in the first innings, you are going to put yourself under pressure."
The Indian team returned to training on Thursday, after a two-day break following the first Test. MS Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh and Suresh Raina decided to stay off the optional training session at the Kingsmead. Raina is under pressure to keep his place in the side after a twin failure in the first side, but Kirsten said no decision has been made regarding the No. 6 spot.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at Cricinfo