From what we see and hear of Ahmedabad, we believe the track will offer a more equal contest between bat and ball than Chennai did. However, of the last four Tests at the Motera stadium, only one has apparently ended in a result. The curator has said that he expects the track to take some turn in the last two days and help the quicker bowlers initially, which is good news for us. The Indian camp will expectedly rely more on spin, especially now that RP Singh and Ishant Sharma both seem to be battling injuries. Of the spinners, Anil Kumble also apparently has a groin strain, which will leave Harbhajan with most of the workload, which I am sure he won't mind given that he has a 10-wicket haul here.
But it's the batting line-ups that hold more interest, I guess, with Sachin Tendulkar sitting out and Mohammed Kaif taking his place. When I say taking his place, of course, I don't mean literally, because no one can really replace Sachin, but it will be interesting to see how Virender Sehwag takes up from Chennai. As Mickey Arthur has said, we have some plans in place for him-specifically to do with short-pitched stuff-so we'll see where that takes him and us.
The weather here is a little better than Chennai, though the temperatures are as high. However, the lack of humidity makes life a little more bearable. As a team, we don't know the Ahmedabad pitch that well, because South Africa has played only one Test here, and that was way back in 1996. Of that team, the only member who is here is, ironically, Gary Kirsten. But the guys are extremely focused on tomorrow's game because they really want a result, as do the spectators I suppose.
We haven't made any changes to our Chennai playing eleven. I thought we did really well in the first game, and the guys are settled in their roles, so there's no reason to change. A few of our players, such as Jacques Kallis and Paul Harris, did not have much to do in Chennai, and we all know that Jacques is just not the kind of player who fails regularly. As for Paul, given that most of the bowling records in Ahmedabad belong to spinners, he's sure to be excited at the prospect of a game here.
Talking of excitement, and getting away from this tour, there's been quite a bit of talk about the five-year ban on Shoaib Akhtar, and the decision seems a little harsh considering the stage of his career. Five years is a long time for any player and for Shoaib, it's pretty much a lifetime ban. I don't see him coming back to international cricket, so I guess it's time for him to explore other options.
But coming back to what I was saying, we are really looking forward to the game tomorrow. Our batsmen are generally in excellent touch-even against the spinners, which ought to dispel concerns about South Africans' ability to play spin-and our bowlers are happy to be taking the field on a pitch that ought to be a little fairer to them. (Gameplan)