Graeme Smith sees India as a new challenge

March 25th, 2008 - 6:48 pm ICT by admin  


Chennai, March 25 (IANS) While preferring to keep his feet firmly on the ground, South African skipper Graeme Smith said his team, despite a successful summer, would be treating the forthcoming Future Cup Test series against India as a “new challenge”. “True, we have had a fairly good summer and won quite a few games. But then, each series is a challenge in itself. As for India, we are aware that they have one of the strongest teams in the world and so, we will be looking forward to the challenge,” he said on the eve of the first Test beginning here Wednesday.

Smith said his team was unfazed by the recent controversies over selection and also the conditions in India, as the players were mature enough to take everything in their stride and play good cricket.

“Yes, it has been a difficult period, but it was good to get on the plane and come here, leaving all the controversies behind. As a team, we are a mature bunch and would like to be judged by the cricket we play rather than anything else,” he said.

South Africa dropped Andre Nel to include Charl Langeveldt as part of Cricket South Africa’s “transformation policy” to provide opportunities to coloured cricketers.

Nel announced that he would re-think his future with the South African team and that in turn led to Langeveldt’s decision to pull out of the India tour saying he was not in the “right frame of mind”. Fast bowler Monde Zondeki was then drafted in as a replacement for Langeveldt.

As for the upcoming Test match, Smith was firm in his opinion that his players were more focussed on winning the game rather than thinking about the reputation of Indian players.

“We have come here to win the series and that would be our focus rather than the reputation of the Indian team that I agree is among the best in the world today with a lot of experience,” he said.

As for the heat and humidity, Smith admitted that they could be a factor and that it was important to manage players to cope with the conditions.

About his team as a whole, the skipper said: “We do have a few youngsters on their first visit to India. Naturally, they are all pretty excited, but then they do realise that it is important to keep their feet firmly on the ground.”

He admitted that fast bowler Dale Steyn would have a key role to play in the series and was brimming with confidence in the wake of a string of fine performances.

“Steyn is very motivated and having read comments from several Indian players, he is even more eager now to do well. As a captain, it has been my duty to sit with him, work out plans for various batters and I must say that he is quite ready to get on with it,” Smith said.

On the question of two South Africans in the Indian team, coach Gary Kirsten and mental conditioning trainer Paddy Upton, Smith seemed a bit vexed.

“This is the 30th time I think I have been asked this question. Look, our focus is on our team and not on the Indians. I know Gary pretty well and respect him a lot. He impacted my game when I first started out. But then, like I said, we are here to play cricket and win the series. And we are pretty focussed on what we have to do.”

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