South Africa are eyeing revenge. The last time they toured India in 2015, the then visitors were treated to dust bowls, on which Virat Kohli's team reigned supreme and thereby clinched a four-match series 3-0.
The hosts now are reportedly preparing a green track to make full use of the firepower in their pace bowling department for the first Test of the upcoming three-match series, starting today (January 5) in Cape Town.
Conditions, opposition doesn't really matter: Bangar
India though seem to be unruffled about the talks over the playing conditions. They had even skipped an optional practice session on the eve of the much-anticipated first Test.
Batting coach Sanjay Bangar said on Thursday (January 4) the team is feeling confident about the preparation and are not worrying about the conditions too much.
"We are very, very confident about our preparation because we got four-five days here before the first Test. And out of those days, we made sure we got plenty out of it. All the boys are in a positive state of mind," Bangar told the media in Cape Town on Thursday.
He added: "The opposition doesn't really matter nor do the conditions. What we are feeling as a batting group is what matters more and we work towards achieving that sort of level that we desire to."
Indeed, the world number one Test side are heading into the series with a lot of confidence after their dominating performances in subcontinent conditions over the last two years. However, Kohli and men are set to face a stiff test in what is their first major overseas tour since their 2-0 defeat in Australia in 2014/15.
In Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane, India have experienced campaigners, who have previously played and scored runs in the "Rainbow Nation". A lot of focus is also on the improved Indian pace battery, which has proved its match-winning abilities at home.
Will India go in with five bowlers?
India though have so far remained tight-lipped about the team combination for the Cape Town Test. While Shikhar Dhawan, who suffered an ankle niggle ahead of the Test, was deemed fit, Ravindra Jadeja is unwell and is unlikely to feature in the playing XI.
With all-rounder Hardik Pandya in the squad, the visitors have the luxury of playing an extra bowler. However, Rohit Sharma's recent form and his proven ability with the bat might tempt Kohli to go in with six batters.
Will Dale Steyn play in Cape Town?
On the other hand, Dale Steyn is unlikely to lead the South African attack in the first Test as the team management have hinted they don't want to fast-track the pacer's return.
South Africa have enough resources in their fast bowling department to trouble India despite the absence of Steyn.
While the visitors start the match as favourites, there are a few concerns that they need to address. It will be interesting to see if AB de Villiers, who returned to Test cricket in December after being out of the scene for nearly 18 months, can deliver big in the crunch series.
On the other hand, skipper Faf du Plessis and Hashim Amla are also returning from injury and illness concerns, respectively.
When is the match and how to watch it online
The first Test between South Africa and India will start in Cape Town on Friday, January 5 at 2 pm IST, 8:30 am GMT.
Live streaming and TV coverage
India: TV: Sony Ten 1 and Sony Ten 3; Live streaming: Sony LIV
South Africa: TV: SuperSport 2; Live streaming: SuperSport live
UK: TV: Sky Sports Cricket; Live streaming: Sky Go
US: Willow TV
Faf du Plessis (c), Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock (wk), Theunis de Bruyn, AB de Villiers, Dean Elgar, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Andile Phehlukwayo, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn
Virat Kohli (c), Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Lokesh Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Hardik Pandya, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Parthiv Patel, Jasprit Bumrah