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India vs South Africa: Visitors look to bank on their bowling strength

South Africa begin long tour of India with a Twenty20 practice match against an India 'A' squad packed with young IPL performers

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South Africa’s AB de Villiers (centre) and Farhaan Behardien (right) take part in a training session on the eve of their practice game in New Delhi on Monday
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The South Africans are back in India. It is here that they made their much-awaited return to international cricket following decades of isolation. With a judicious blend of youth and experience, the Proteas will start their 72-day long campaign with a Twenty20 warm-up game against India 'A' at the Air Force Sports Complex in Palam on Tuesday.

With three captains — Hashim Amla (Test), AB de Villiers (ODI) and Faf du Plessis (T20) — for three formats, India may find it tough to gauge what's coming at them. But with a historic Test series win on foreign soil, the hosts would like to carry this momentum into the home series.

But there is a catch. Unlike most of visiting sides who generally rely on its spinners to thrive in India, the Proteas have already made up their mind to play on their strengths. And who wouldn't field Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel, arguably the world's best pace battery. If Philander provides the swing and Morkel thrives on bounce, then Steyn is that all-round package.

That's not all, Proteas have also beefed up their spin department by recalling Imran Tahir and Dane Piedt in the Test squad. There's Simon Harmer too.

The South Africans are not wrong in their calculations. A close look at the records where India were beaten at home — by Australia (1-2) in 2004-05 and then to England (by the same margin) in 2012-13 — the hosts were undone equally by pace and spin.

If it was the pace of Glenn McGrath (14 wickets in four Tests) and Jason Gillespie (20 in four Tests) which broke India's back, then Shane Warne, too, did his bit by picking up 14 wickets.

A couple of years ago, England did exactly the same in the presence of greats like Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid. The Alastair Cook- team relied on spinners Graeme Swann (20 wickets in four Tests) and Monty Panesar (17 in three Tests) to outsmart India. And they also relied on James Anderson (12 in four Tests) to give them a headstart with the new ball.

South Africa are relying on their confidence. With a balanced squad at their disposal, they are relying more on their pacers to deliver the goods than thinking too much about the conditions in this part of the world. And if the Proteas return triumphant from India, it would be no less similar to the domination of the great West Indian and Australian sides.

"Indians are very good players of spin, we know that. Our fast bowlers have always been successful whenever South Africa have toured India. Although spin is going to be a factor in this series, it's important that our seamers start going for us," said South Africa coach Russell Domingo, adding, "We have got very good spinners in the experienced Imran Tahir and two young spinners in Dane Piedt and Simon Harmer. It would be a great experience for them to play against these players in these conditions in a high-pressure environment. But, like I said, the seamers have done the business for us around the world and I expect them to play a big part under these conditions as well."

On the other hand, India are bound to feel confident about hosting a side which is probably not so experienced. With seamers like Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav and Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the fray, will the hosts be prompted to dish out seamer-freindly tracks?

India's batting continues to be the biggest talking point. Having indulged in a lot of experimentation in Sri Lanka, the Indian think-tank will have to ensure that they go into the series with a positive and settled frame of mind by not making frequent changes in the batting order.

For now, all eyes are set on India 'A' youngsters — Yuzvendra Chahal, Pawan Negi, Kuldeep Yadav, Manan Vohra, Manish Pandey, Sanju Samson and Mayank Agarwal. Can they give the Proteas a rude welcome?

SQUADS
India 'A'

Mandeep Singh (C), Mayank Agarwal, Manan Vohra, Manish Pandey, Surya Kumar Yadav, Sanju Samson, Hardik Pandya, Rishi Dhawan, Anureet Singh, Yuzvendra Chahal, Pawan Negi, Kuldeep Yadav

South Africans
Faf du Plessis (C), Farhaan Behardien, Quinton de Kock, Marchant de Lange, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Imran Tahir, Eddie Leie, Kyle Abbott, David Miller, Chris Morris, Kagiso Rabada, Albie Morkel, Khaya Zondo

Hashim Amla will join the squad on Tuesday

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