Kolkata:

Thanks to the wash out in the third match of the series at Chennai, our encounter at the Eden Gardens tomorrow has taken on an extra edge, with everything to play for. If we win here, we know that at least we can’t lose the series, and going into Mumbai, that will be a huge boost for us. We’re treating these two matches pretty much as finals and the five-day gap between Bangalore and Kolkata has helped us re-focus. In a series as hectic as this, it is hard to find any time at all to relax and catch one’s breath, but some of the guys managed to take in some shopping, and some others took in the zoo in Kolkata.

The sights and sounds of India is something we have always enjoyed, and we want to be as fresh as we can for the game at Eden Gardens – a venue that will always hold special memories for any South African side because it was here that we played our first match after our re-entry into world cricket. The team is committed to giving its all to the Eden match, and we are charged up. Our bowlers are particularly looking forward to bowling to Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who has played some great cricket against Sri Lanka, but who has not faced the new ball from us. We had counted on getting a bowl against him in the first match, mainly because we have more firepower than Sri Lanka and we’d like him to have a go at us – hence our on-field discussion that he was probably being ‘hidden’ away from our attack. With bowlers like Shaun Pollock, Makhaya Ntini and Andre Nel in our ranks, is it any wonder that we fancy our chances with the new ball? They are all aggressive, intense cricketers, and I personally feel that the crowds love it when someone is as visibly combative as Andre is, for instance.

Fans the world over enjoy the spirit of fierce but healthy competition, because they can appreciate the passion that goes into it. We as a team encourage individuals to be themselves, and that is one of our strengths. Another player with a great deal of passion in him is Shaun. He is a pillar of this team, and if he has had a reasonably quiet series thus far, I would remind you that he has got rid of vital cogs in the Indian batting machine like Sachin Tendulkar and Mohammed Kaif at crucial moments. He has also surprised quite a few of the Indian batsmen with sudden extra bounce and pace.

Nothing could be better than a South African victory engineered by him. Talking of crowds, not many can beat the Eden Gardens fans when it comes to noise-producing skills. But we loved it last year, and we are sure we’ll love it tomorrow. The pitch has traditionally been a good batting track, which slows down a little as the game progresses, so we’ll probably see lots of runs on the board. Let the show begin. Graeme Smith is the captain of the South African team and is writing exclusively for The Himalayan Times