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India have arrived in Johannesburg for their one-off Twenty20 international against South Africa on March 30, and though it may seem like a long way to travel for a solitary match, their coach Duncan Fletcher believes the experience will be beneficial.
"We have got quite a lot of young players here. We've been trying to develop a young one-day squad and Twenty20 squad," Fletcher said. "These blokes have played well on the subcontinent and any game they play out of it must be very good from an experience point of view."
When asked if his players were happy to travel so far for one game, given that the IPL begins on April 4, the captain MS Dhoni said they were, and praised South Africa's ability to make visiting teams comfortable. He did not believe the players were fatigued, having just completed a full tour of Australia and the Asia Cup, and said they wouldn't be fatigued with more than seven weeks of Twenty20 cricket either.
"All happy," he said. "In South Africa the sports are managed really well. When a team comes everything is in place and in order. In the same way, when it comes to India, the management, the airlines and the hotels, they go out of their way to make the players comfortable.
"I don't think fatigue will be a real factor. We all enjoy playing the IPL; that's one format where you are not representing your country, and the span of the tournament is slightly longer so you play quite a few games. It's a different exposure. I always felt the platform was good for youngsters because they get to play with some of the best international cricketers. It helps you get a bit fitter also."
India arrived in South Africa after failing to make the Asia Cup final, and before that failing to make the finals of the tri-series in Australia. Their Test side was whitewashed 4-0 in England and Australia as well. Between those tours, though, India won a one-day series at home against England and a Test and one-day series against West Indies. When asked how his term with the side had been so far, Fletcher said "there's been no middle road".
"We've played some very good cricket [in West Indies and at home] and then we've gone on to what I would consider two of the toughest tours you can go on within a short period of time," Fletcher said. "I don't know if any other side has done that: gone to England and Australia within four months.
"There are a lot of young players we are trying to groom, and hopefully it will pay dividends in the future. From our point of view there is a lot of talent around, we need to give them the exposure they require."
Gary Kirsten, the South Africa coach, said the game was going to be difficult for his players, as they would have just had a long flight from New Zealand. "Its going to be tough but I am quite excited. We've got a couple of new guys to have a look at there," he said. "It's diffiuclt, it's the end of the season and it's a one-off game, but I think we are going to keep it pretty lighthearted, if we can stay awake."
Edited by George Binoy