Monday, March 24, 2008

Our strength lies with our bowlers: Kallis

Cricket matches in Chennai usually mean a lot of rain. Water scarcity is a big problem in the city but schedule a game and you can be pretty assured about the heavens opening up. The steady pitter-patter this morning brought with it a sense of déjà vu.

Over the last four years, two Tests, two ODIs and a premier domestic one-day final - all of which were played between October and December - have been disrupted by rain. But this time, at least, the board seems to have got the timing right - since 1995, games held in March have gone the course.

A bit of rain, though, brings with it humidity and it was no surprise to see Jacques Kallis and Paul Harris spent after the session. It was also fitting that they sat alongside each other - one will lead the batsmen's challenge against turn while the other will spearhead the spin department against quality opposition.

Kallis was pretty clear about the conditions his side could expect for the first Test.
"I don't think there's going to be too much swing happening here,"
he said with a wry smile.

"The way the wicket has been prepared, it's going to be a spinner's paradise. We've had trips to the subcontinent recently and the guys are playing spin as well as they've ever played. I think the myth that South Africans do not play spin well is pretty much out of the window now."

While South Africa go into the series without any practice match, Kallis felt the tour to Bangladesh was a good preparation.
"The guys have played low and slow wickets in Bangladesh, so technically they're well prepared. Mentally - to bat time, face the heat and humidity - needs an adjustment. So at the moment it's probably a more mental adjustment we need to make."

Sitting next to him was Harris, somebody who's waited for this tour all his life. South Africa's only previous series win in India - back in 1999-00 - was set up by a fine spell by another left-arm spinner - Nicky Boje.

While India's power-packed batting order has dealt successfully with legspinners and offbreak bowlers, it's the left-arm variety - Raymond Price, Ashley Giles and Boje - who have turned into irritants. Joining Harris in the spin department will be Robin Peterson, another left-arm spinner, who is expected to land on Monday.

"I'm looking forward to bowling to all of the Indian top order,"
he said.
"I've been waiting my whole career to play a series in India - probably the best place for a spinner to come and test his skills. I'm looking forward to bowling to some of the best players in the world. It's a pity I missed the Test matches in Bangladesh. I was injured for that. But I have a great coach at home - Richard Pybus, he's coached Pakistan - and he's helped me."

Harris showed his match-winning ability on the trip to Pakistan late last year, with 12 wickets in two games. It included a telling 5 for 73 in the Karachi Test, setting up a famous win. However, while recognising that performance, he thought he gained more from the two home series against India and Pakistan [in 2006-07].

"In Pakistan they prepared wickets for their spinners - especially in Karachi. It turned a lot and there was actually quite a bit of bounce there [in Pakistan]. So I felt it was less strenuous than in the home tours against India and Pakistan before that. It was nice to go there and do well but those wickets really did suit me."

With conditions likely to drain the energies of the faster bowlers, Harris is expecting to shoulder a large part of the burden.

However, Kallis was clear that only a collective effort - from both the quicks and the spinners - would win them the series.
"I think we have an attack that can take 20 wickets, which is what you need to win a Test. For the first time in a long time, our strength lies with our bowlers. And I think they're going to come through. If they can have a good series here, we're in with a big shot."

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