Cricketing ties between India and South Africa date back to only the early 1990s, but what the rivalry lacks in longevity it makes up in drama. Historically, a trip to the Rainbow Nation has always been a tough assignment for the Men in Blue. The pace and bounce in pitches there has frequently had Indian batsmen hoping, while the bowlers also find it tough to adjust to conditions.
India generally has had a reputation of being poor travellers. Even though a generation of tough cricketers has done their utmost to change the perception, it still precedes them when they travel outside the sub-continent.
With the likes of Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma to take on the South African pace battery, it remains to be seen whether the result is different this time.
When India went to South Africa for the Friendship Series in 1992-93, not a lot was known about their players except that they were fantastic fielders.
It was not a successful campaign for Mohammad Azharudin's team. Despite having the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Kapil Dev, Ravi Shastri and Anil Kumble, India was no match for the hosts who prevailed 5-2 in the seven-match day-night series.
India never managed to score enough runs to put the South Africans under pressure. The bowlers also had very little idea on how to contain the likes of Andrew Hudson, Kepler Wessels, Hansie Cronje and Jonty Rhodes.
The next visit in 1996-97, with Tendulkar as captain, had a tri-series involving Zimbabwe. Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly had emerged on the scene by then, but India was still overly dependent on their skipper.
After a few setbacks on the way, India came up short in a rain-affected final. The match is best remembered for Dravid hitting Allan Donald over long-on for six, and 'White Lightning' giving him a mouthful.
The 2001-02 tour had a tri-series with Kenya as the third side. Though India, now under Ganguly, beat the hosts in one of the preliminary matches, they also suffered the ignominy of losing to the Kenyans. India reached the final where Shaun Pollock's side prevailed. India won their first Test on South African soil in 2006-07, but Graeme Smith's side whitewashed Dravid's team in the One-dayers.
The 2010-11 series was more keenly contested with matters level going into the fifth and deciding match. Yusuf Pathan's whirlwind hundred was not enough, but the creditable performance by Mahendra Singh Dhoni's side augured well for the World Cup which followed.
Strength - Virat Kohli is in sublime form and is the master of the big chase. As such, no target is safe when the Indian batsmen are at the crease. After delivering a run-feast on home turf, they will be keen on an encore.
Weakness - The Indian bowlers gave their batting team-mates a lot of opportunities to chase huge totals, such was their abysmal form against the Aussies. Death bowling has been a headache for skipper Dhoni as pitches may not be conducive to spin.
Opportunity - The recent series win for Pakistan in South Africa comes after similar success for New Zealand and Australia in previous years. India will try to capitalise on this factor.
Threat - The bounce on South African pitches will help the likes of Morne Morkel, who can make life tough for Indians. The visitors don't have a history of coping well.
Strength - Dale Steyn found his groove against Pakistan and will be the trump card for captain AB de Villiers.
Weakness - Jacques Kallis has not played a lot of ODIs of late, and not been too successful when he has. The batting line-up looks weak.
Threat - India's opening pair of Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma provide great starts. The Proteas need an early breakthrough.
Opportunity - After forgettable tours to England and Australia, some early reversals for India will give the hosts the psychological edge.
Other Related Stories:
- Dhoni looking for a new start in post-Tendulkar era
- Each Indian batsman a match-winner
- Good idea to send Zaheer in advance
- 'A' tour advantage
- 'We are going to South Africa a confident lot'
- India pick Zaheer, ignore Gambhir for South Africa tour