In 2015, the South African team suffered their first Test series loss in India since 2004. On dusty, square-turning wickets prepared by India, the Hashim Amla-led team were torn apart by Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.
This time also, the Proteas are not the favourites and a victory over India would be a huge upset. What makes the Proteas' chances of winning even slimmer is the absence of their star batsman AB de Villiers. He was the only batter able to put up a fight in the 2015 series from the African side.
But taking South Africa lightly would always be a big mistake. They may be missing the star power of de Villiers and Hashim Amla, but there are some lesser-known players in the squad who could surprise India with their performances. Let's look at 3 such men that the hosts need to be wary of.
Theunis de Bruyn
The pulverisation at the hands of India in 2015 wasn't the last time the South African team suffered badly on spin-friendly pitches. Last year, in a 2-Test series in Sri Lanka, the Proteas got pummelled again. The only batsman who managed to put up a fight was Theunis de Bruyn. The 26-year old right-hander scored a brilliant hundred in the second Test of the series in Colombo (SSC).
This innings saw him play in a mature and confident manner. With a strong defence and good stroke-play, de Bruyn put on an exhibition on how to play in such conditions. With India also likely to serve up spin-friendly pitches, de Bruyn could once again make a mark.
An old-fashioned left-arm spinner, Maharaj has a nice action and a beautiful style of bowling. He uses the subtle variations of flight and length to keep the batsmen honest. He could well become the great spinner that South Africa have been searching for since their readmission.
Last year, in Sri Lanka, Maharaj carried a very heavy workload as he was the team's main strike bowler. He managed to get a 9-for in the second Test – his best Test figures – of that tour. Though he didn't make much of a mark in the little opportunity he got against India in the 2018 series at home, he remains a quality bowler.
With the Indians having looked vulnerable against good quality spin in recent years, he may well be South Africa's trump card.
Most Indian fans would remember Heinrich Klaasen for the match-winning innings he played against India in South Africa's only victory during the ODI series between the two teams last year. Recently, he also turned out for South Africa 'A' during their tour of India.
Klaasen possesses genuine talent as a batsman. He won't play ahead of Quinton de Kock as a keeper but may be brought in just for his batting talent. Klaasen is a clean striker of the ball and possesses good timing. He gets into good positions for using his impressive repertoire of strokes. He may well be a good counter-attacker in the lower middle-order.