Having lost 3-0 the last time they played India in tests in that country, the Proteas on Wednesday begin their three-test series – which also forms part of the World Test Championship – against the hosts in Visakhapatnam.
It’s poised to be a tough series for the South Africans, who are rebuilding after losing Hashim Amla and Dale Steyn, and getting to know interim coach Enoch Nkwe. Eric Simons, who’s done the bulk of his recent coaching in the IPL, explains why a test series in India is so tough.
What makes playing tests in India so difficult?
It’s a number of things. First of all, you’re playing in front of a very passionate crowd and it can be quite intimidating. The heat will affect you – it’s a very different heat to South Africa’s. You lose a lot of fluids, so you have to stay hydrated, but it is draining, so that also plays a role. Second, the Indian team is also particularly good in its own conditions – they are masters of their own conditions. Then there are the conditions themselves, where the wickets are very different from what we’re used to.
It’s relentless, particularly when you’re batting. You always feel like you’re under pressure; you don’t always get into those positions where you feel like you can control the run flows as you might on day two or three at the Wanderers or in Durban.
With this test series forming part of the World Test Championship, can India afford to get away with the atrocious pitches they prepared last time the Proteas toured there?
I don’t think they will – for a few reasons. Number one, the venues are not traditional test venues, so they’ll want to make sure they have a good test match and not too many problems.
But the most important reason is that I don’t think India need to do it.
I’ve read that [Jasprit] Bumrah is injured and out of the series, but they’ve got a very good seam attack and they’re not just restricted to relying on their spinners like they were years ago.
I know he didn’t make runs the last time around, but what do you think the Amla effect will be on the batting line-up?
I think it’s across the board. We have a top order that, if you look at [captain] Faf du Plessis, Temba Bavuma and Aiden Markram, has been around for a while.
But their record in India won’t strike fear into the Indian team. While Amla didn’t score runs last time, he was the elder statesman or the big brother who gave some comfort to the other guys. And I think the guys will feel a little more isolated without him.
They are going to have to pull together as a unit more than ever before.
How much of an effect do you expect batting consultant Amol Muzumdar to have?
It’s an interesting one because my past 10 years in coaching have been in tournaments such as the IPL. One of the biggest jobs is not imparting your knowledge, it’s getting to understand the players – and that takes time.
It’s a relationship thing and, hopefully, he’s taken some time to understand South Africans because we do think and work differently.
Indians tend to be very technical about the way they go about things. I don’t think South Africans are necessarily technical.
One of the most important things in that situation is to get to know who you’re working with rather than imparting knowledge.
All things considered, that is, the Proteas are rebuilding and India are at home, what’s the best result we can expect?
I think that the conditions had a lot of influence in the result last time around. We’re not going to have the same conditions.
It would be an incredible result if we came away with a win, but if we came away with a series draw, I think it would be a credible result.