India in South Africa 2013-14 December 17, 2013

Smith's South Africa keen to build legacy

South Africa squashed their opponents at home last summer. This year's visitors are expected to be tougher, and Graeme Smith wants his team to be as ruthless

'Hoping Tahir will make an impact' - Smith

The summer of 2012 had some milestones for South African cricket.

It was the first time Graeme Smith's team played at home after winning the Test mace in England that August. It was also the first time since readmission that there was no Test in Durban: Kingsmead's traditional Boxing Day fixture was cancelled in favour of a Twenty20 series. When the Tests began, South Africa won all of them in a home season for the first time in a decade. None of the matches lasted five days.

That last point was the most notable of the lot. After becoming the top-ranked Test side and then winning a series in Australia, South Africa's mission was to assert their authority over the rest. They were ruthless against New Zealand, who barely posed a challenge, and Pakistan, who worried them only on the first day in Johannesburg and when Saeed Ajmal took ten wickets in Cape Town.

The summer of 2013 is expected to be trickier. South Africa are still No. 1, having ended a seven-month break from Tests with a drawn series against Pakistan in the UAE. It's not mid-table teams they are up against at home, though, and they have to play in Durban, where they have not won a Test since January 2008. It is likely that matches will last longer than they did last summer.

South Africa's first opponents are the No. 2 ranked side. Though India's rise in the rankings has been a result of victories at home, they have been competitive in South Africa in the past. There's reason to believe they will be again, despite the transition they are going through after Sachin Tendulkar's retirement.

"Their line-up is hugely talented, although very different to the one I have become accustomed to playing against," South Africa's captain Graeme Smith said. Of the 27 Tests South Africa have played against India, only twice have they not come up against Tendulkar. In 2008, he missed the Kanpur and Ahmedabad matches with a groin injury.

Tendulkar's absence has got the South African bowlers excited. Morne Morkel said that without him and Rahul Dravid, India's line-up lacked "guys who can bat time," although he singled out Cheteshwar Pujara as being someone with the potential to do that. He expected the other batsmen to attack and said they may come unstuck if they adopt that approach.

For Morkel, possibly South Africa's gentlest soul, to issue such a stern warning shows the level of self-belief in this squad. They don't think they can beat teams; they know they can.

Smith said that was the major difference between this Test side and the one that could not beat India three seasons ago. "There's confidence and composure now, and growth in terms of knowing that we can win from certain situations," he said.

Where South Africa have to be careful is in ensuring that their conviction does not become complacency. To guard against that, Smith has spoken about building a legacy - a term that is used to remind his team that every series is part of a bigger goal.

"We play the game hard and there's a big respect for the opposition. Hopefully we will be able to set standards," Smith said. "If you look at the Ashes, it puts into perspective the type of performances we've been able to put in. It's legacy and we need to have a care factor for that."

The Ashes winners, Australia, will tour South Africa later in the summer and that is expected to be a fiery affair. Smith does not want to look that far yet. "I don't feel there is any hype around the dressing room for that. We need to overcome this first."

Smith's focus is in the right place because South Africa have not won a series against India since 2006: the last three series were drawn. Their goal is crystal clear. Last summer, South Africa wanted to show they could win big. This year, they want to prove they can win hard.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ashok on December 18, 2013, 19:59 GMT

    It was heartening to see India change their tactics & focus on leaving the balls outside the off well alone. However Dhawan is still trying to be Sehwag like by attacking from the start & he paid the penalty! Pujara & Kohli played very sensible cricket in their 89 run partnership. Pujara had just played himself IN but unfortunately was run out due to poor call. If Pujara had stayed, he was a another potential centurion! This run out was most unwanted & put India on the back foot with just 4 bowlers in the XI. It is good to see Rahane & Dhoni put up a good fight to play out the last hour in poor light & all. So SA appear to have got unexpected fight & heeded Morkel's suggestion of staying at the crease patiently for runs to come. It is reasonable to expect a total of 325, if these 2 batsmen can negotiate the new ball on Day 2.This will enable the underdog India to at least make a fight of this Test. However I shudder at India playing with just 4 Bowlers- an unwise & very risky choice!

  • Dummy4 on December 18, 2013, 7:49 GMT

    Australia has the est recor at home. So stop bragging about South Africa. Also every team is good in Tests at home.

    1. Australia

    Span 1877-2013

    Matches played 392

    Matches won 222

    Matches lost 95

    Tied 1

    Drawn 74

    Win/Loss Ratio 2.33

    Winning percentage 56%

    Get your facts right!!!

  • shashank on December 18, 2013, 6:31 GMT

    @Amrantha From 2006-07 season SA vs Ind+SL+PAk in sub-continent In Srilanka - 0-2 (2) in Pak - 1-0 (2) In India - 1-1 (3) In India - 1-1(2) In UAE - 0-0 (2) In UAE - 1-1 (2)

    They won just 1 series out of 6. With total result of 4 won -5 Lost. I have never mentioned in my post that my team is better than SA or "XYZ" . I have Just stated the Fact that they have not Dominated the subcontinent team in subcontinent and will struggle to do so. Yes and i have have mentioned that they are best outside subcontinent and still i agree with that.

    Stat REF :;id=3;type=team

  • Dummy4 on December 18, 2013, 6:30 GMT

    It happens look at what india did to australia at home 4-0 every team in lion at home. its just how it is

  • David on December 18, 2013, 6:27 GMT

    @ shashankqvivek. Who do you mean by "they?" SA has won a series in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka & Bangladesh. There is NO test playing country where SA has not won a series!

  • Dummy4 on December 18, 2013, 5:36 GMT

    @ shashankqvivek are you kidding ...... Since 06/07 SA has played 24 test series won 16 of them, drew 7 of them and lost just one to AUS in AUS... if you can give me a team with a better home and AWAY records then i'll glad agree with you... but if you can't giev me then stop being a crybaby because SA has a much better record than your team..... This current SA side can beat or challenge any sub-continent team in any sub-continent territory

  • Dummy4 on December 18, 2013, 4:52 GMT

    As an Indian, I want to be optimistic but I can't. If weather is game nothing can prevent SA to be 2-0 up without much sweat. I am not hoping for a positive result, I am hoping for a fight. But are the Indians equipped to fight out? The big answer is "no". Not because we don't have the resources but because we are neither experienced nor we have planned enough to acclimatize. Even if we get a good thrashing, my problem is, we will still not know if our personnel are technically and mentally good enough as he first 2 tests may be required to know the conditions.

  • shashank on December 18, 2013, 4:23 GMT

    They have not won a series in Subcontinent (India+Pak+SL). Yes they drew against Pakistan but Pakistan are not playing at their home. I don't see this team winning a test series in Sri Lanka , India & Pakistan(Where 80% of wickets are taken by spinners). Yes they are Best team out of Indian Subcontinent.

  • Akhil on December 18, 2013, 2:34 GMT

    I'm not sure what selectors & Dhoni see in M Vijay. I hope i'm proven wrong after this series. I would have given Jaffer or A Mukund a chance. Also even though Yadav was expensive in the ODIs i would have still picked him over Ishant Sharma. With the red ball this boy can do wonders if he gets it right. Unless we give him a chance we will never know.

  • Dummy4 on December 18, 2013, 2:04 GMT

    I believe that first challenge for India is to take the tests into 5'th day. That itself could be a great victory. I am not confident that the Indians can win test match in SA. I will be happy if they show some fight and make the series competitive atleast. I am sure all others are expecting this only. Just do not make it one-sided affair. That will make most of us happy.

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