TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
AND now for something completely different, although not utterly alien to what has gone before on SA’s tour of India.
The one-day series of five matches that starts in Kanpur on Sunday will and won’t look and feel like the Twenty20 rubber that ended damply in Kolkata on Thursday when even a ground as well appointed as Eden Gardens was unable to soak up days of rain well enough to allow a game to get going.
No matter. By then SA had wrapped up the series 2-0. Bring on the one-dayers …
Steady, said SA coach Russell Domingo: “We have only played two days of cricket and there’s 25 days of cricket left. We have to focus all our energy on Kanpur. We shouldn’t get too cocky and confident on the basis of what has happened as we know India are a very high quality side.”
Indeed. Regardless of Sunday’s result the match will bring SA back to India’s dry, dusty, scorched earth. A temperature of 38 degrees has been forecast and Green Park has yet to yield a total of 300 or more in the 13 ODIs played there – 12 of which have been won by the home side.
SA have not featured in any of those matches but they have played three tests in Kanpur. Sensitive readers may want to skip the next paragraph.
In December 1996 Paul Adams took eight wickets in the match but SA still lost, and by 280 runs. In November 2004 Andrew Hall opened the batting and scored 163 in the first innings, and the visitors battled it out for a draw. In April 2008 half-centuries by Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla and three wickets each for Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Paul Harris were the only SA highlights as India surged to victory by eight wickets.
It’s not just that Green Park is to Eden Gardens what Willowmoore Park is to the Wanderers – although the good people of Benoni will point out that Denis Compton scored 300 on his own there in 1948 – it’s that Kanpur’s Wikipedia page proclaims the place as “one of the most polluted cities in the world”.
Charming. But Domingo, on his first visit to India, did not shy away from listing the realities of touring there.
“There are lots of media who ask lots of questions. We knows the ball is going to spin a lot. The crowd support is immense, the passion for the game, the constant scrutiny from the media and public. It’s about dealing with all the noise – I’m not talking about the crowd noise alone but even the media noise. I put on the TV and the only thing I’m watching is the highlights of the game and constant analysis. Keeping our focus amidst all this noise is our main goal.”
How might SA do that?
“We invest in our team and spend time together as a unit. We will talk about the challenges we need to overcome. You need to enjoy the environment and train as hard as you can.”
Two of the additions to the squad for the ODI series, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, can tell their less experienced teammates all they want to know about India.
The other, Aaron Phangiso, has yet to play in India at senior international level. But he will be quizzed exhaustively about the fourth ball of the ninth over of the Lions’ Champions League match against Mumbai Indians at the Wanderers in October 2012.
After all, Phangiso bowled that ball – and it crashed into the stumps of a certain Sachin Tendulkar.