Shikhar Dhawan India
India opener Shikhar Dhawan celebrates after reaching his hundred against the West Indies in the third ODI, November 27.BCCI

Pace, like England found out to their detriment in the Ashes series down under, is not comfortable. Add a bit of movement to that, coupled with the best fast bowler in the world, that happy world that batsmen seem to find themselves in in modern cricket, becomes a lot more tedious and sweat-worthy.

When the India batsmen take guard against South Africa for their series starting Thursday, the much-vaunted lineup will be put to a move-your-feet-and-show-some-pluck-or-you're-in-trouble test of the highest order.

South Africa are not the number one Test side in the world for no reason. They have arguably the best bowling lineup - at least fast bowling lineup, particularly in home conditions - coupled with batsmen who know how and when to score runs.

While the South Africa tour begins with three one-dayers - helpful to assess the conditions ahead of the Tests, as MS Dhoni rightly said -- the real contest will start on December 18 when the first Test match begins in Johannesburg.

A real pity it is that cricket lovers will not get to view a full Test series, with various issues - OK one major issue being BCCI's lack of love for Haroon Lorgat - causing the tour to be seriously curtailed.

If things had gone according to plan, and by that the ICC Future Tours' Programme, Sachin Tendulkar would have played his 200th Test in South Africa. But as matters panned out, the Little Master was given the opportunity to play that epic Test and with it also bid goodbye on his home ground in Mumbai.

An emotional au revoir it turned out to be, with it also bringing forward the stark reality of India playing Test cricket without any of their "Big Four" anymore, ever again.

No straight drives from Tendulkar, no back-to-the-walls, get-out-of-jail innings from Rahul Dravid, no cover drives through the offside from Sourav Ganguly and no majestic flicks from VVS Laxman -- all of that is now planted in the corner of the brain which controls memory.

Instead, it is finally the time for the youngsters to carry India's torch on their own. The onus firmly placed on the Shikhar Dhawans, Virat Kohlis, Rohit Sharmas and Cheteshwar Pujaras.

When Dale Steyn runs in, red cherry in hand, like a bull in sight of his target, the Indian batsmen will know what they are in for. Add Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander, and the attack becomes a little more fearful, with one capable of making you smell the leather at regular intervals and the other a wicket-taking machine in home conditions.

This series will not just be about the South African bowlers against the Indian batsmen, though. There is also the small matter of the relatively inexperienced bowlers - Zaheer Khan apart - finding their rhythm in alien conditions - after all a Test match is won by taking 20 wickets.

The likes of Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, and Pragyan Ojha, if he plays, will not find the South African pitches too conducive to spin bowling, and how they adjust will make a huge difference.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami have the right tools to succeed abroad with the ball, while Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma can be dangerous on their day as well.

On paper, the ability is there; but then a match, let alone a series, has never been won on paper. And to make matters a little more complicated, that paper looks better on the South African side, who have the bowlers and the batsmen capable of taking the match away from India, with the extra sprinkle of experience.

The three-match one-day series will be the first small test. The results won't matter as much as how the batsmen and bowlers fare. For instance, if the Indian batsmen consistently score over 300 runs, that will be a huge boost to their confidence going into the Test matches.

If India can come away from the one-day series with smiles planted on the majority of the players' faces, it just might be the dawn of what promises to be a humdinger of a Test series.