The drive from Johannesburg to Durban is a beautiful one, but once you enter Kwa Zulu Natal, you pass the scene of many a battle. There's Estcourt, where King Dingane's Zulu warriors massacred the Voortrekkers from the western cape, and Volkrust (The nation rests), where Boer soldiers gathered to regroup after the first war of independence. Perhaps it's a good thing that an embattled Indian team subjected to relentless criticism in recent months flew down, even if it meant skipping the chance to pass through towns like Pietermaritzburg, where Mahatma Gandhi was thrown off the train.

Kingsmead occupies a special place in South African cricket lore. It was here that Graeme Pollock scored the last of his seven Test centuries, an epic 274 (401 balls) that inspired a crushing innings-and-129-run thumping of Bill Lawry's Australians. Along the way, he added 103 with Barry Richards, who smashed 20 fours and a six en route to 140 in only his second Test.

In the media centre, there's a glass cabinet that houses bats used by both - the Gray Nicholls favoured by Richards and the Duncan Fearnley blade that Pollock used to such devastating effect before the isolation years. A senior Indian journalist doing a story on modern equipment for a TV channel managed to borrow one of Mahendra Singh Dhoni's bats, and we stare in amazement at how the new differs from the old. Pollock was reputed to use one of the heaviest bats of his time, but next to Dhoni's ship-hull-shaped one, it's an average Joe standing next to Jean Claud van Damme. The Richards bat may as well be Twiggy.

Dileep Premachandran is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo