Hyderabad:

It feels good to be back in India. And it feels better to have begun this series with a convincing

win in our warm-up game. Admittedly, the opposition was not very strong, but the performance of the team has been in line with our recent record, which has boosted our confidence as we go into the opening match of the Pepsi Cup series here on Wednesday. Much of that confidence, of course, comes from our 19-match winning streak, which has given us a tremendous momentum and placed us second on the latest ICC world rankings.

The fact that we have beaten quality teams like England and New Zealand by large margins – 4-1 and 4-0 in this case – is also a significant factor. That is not to say we’re focusing on large margins of victory here; we’ll take anything we can get, whether it’s 3-2 or 4-1 is immaterial. The focus is on winning this series, and we can make no better start than to win the first game.

However, we don’t expect that to be a cake walk. The Indians are on top of their game too at the moment, and they have traditionally been a force to reckon with at home. Besides, four of the five matches in this series will be day-night ones, where the task of playing under lights in heavy conditions with a significant dew factor in operation will always prove tough. As our performance against the Hyderabad Board XI showed, both our batting and bowling are looking in good shape. We gave eight of our players a bowl and it was good to see our off-spinner Johan Botha among the wickets. A few reports have appeared suggesting that Johan has modelled himself on Harbhajan Singh, but I think that has a lot to do with the fact that he has developed a version of the doosra.

After all, Johan is a very young player, with all-round abilities as a bowler, batsman and fielder and a particular ability to extract bounce from any surface. Our batsmen are also in good touch, and though a lot has been written about AB de Villiers’ apparent lack of form in the one-dayers, he was our top scorer in the warm-up match, so all it takes for a gifted batsman like him is one good innings to get back to form. India has a few good youngsters in the team as well, and the side that we play now seems to have acquired a nice balance of youth and experience. Obviously, the return of Sachin Tendulkar is the biggest plus for them, and they have two seasoned veterans in Rahul Dravid and Virender Sehwag. At the same time, the rise of young bloods like Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Gautam Gambhir has infused the side with a new energy.

For all that, we are confident of our chances. We have always enjoyed playing in India and we revel in the noise, the passion, the crowds and the overall air of great excitement. The love for a game that we ourselves love so much delights us. India is an experience never to be forgotten, and we can’t wait to begin. Greame Smith is the captain of South African cricket team and is writing exclusively for The Himalayan Times.