South African skipper Graeme Smith today sought to put India under pressure, saying that with their number one Test status at stake, the injury-hit hosts risk losing everything, while his side can only gain from the two-match series starting Saturday.
“The bigger opportunity (than topping the ranking) for us is to beat India. And I think at the moment, we have everything to gain on this tour and India have got everything to lose,” Smith told reporters on the eve of the first Test here.
“My aspect is just about coming here to play better cricket than India and hopefully, to be able to adapt our style of play to these conditions. The opportunity to beat India excites us and if we do that we get the ranking,” the opener said.
Already weakened by the absence of middle-order mainstay Rahul Dravid and dashing left-hander Yuvraj Singh, the hosts are also sweating over the fitness of another stalwart V. V. S. Laxman, who is nursing a finger injury.
Smith said the visitors would look to capitalise on this.
“Guys like Laxman, Dravid are quality players, with huge amount of experience. Not only do they bring experience, they bring calmness to the Indian team. From our aspect it’s an opportunity,” the 29-year-old left-hander said.
The 81-Test veteran felt there would be extra pressure on Indian openers Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag in the absence of Dravid and Yuvraj.
I think it does put pressure on guys like Gambhir and Sehwag. They need to take a little more responsibility. They don’t really have the guy with 10,000 runs at number three. He is really the rock of the lot. The responsibility on Sehwag is crucial,” Smith said.
The visiting captain feels the first Test is crucial in a compressed series and it will be difficult to bounce back for the team which loses the opener here.
“A lot of emphasis (is) on the first Test. You need to be a lot more precise in the first Test. There is no way to get back into the series if you allow things to slip,” he said.
Recalling South Africa’s last trip to India, when they squandered a 1—0 lead to allow the hosts to level the rubber, Smith said the side is capable of winning it this time.
“In 2008, we played some very good cricket here and so we came very close. We really wanted to win here. Not many teams have done it here. We really want to tick that box. The tour will be judged by results. In 2008, we came really close, Now we really want to go that extra step,” he said.
Smith felt his players, while adapting to the Indian playing conditions, need to play their natural game too to succeed.
“We need to adapt to the conditions. That’s the key. At the same time it is important that we play our style of cricket. Our players have refined their game plan as long as we have been here,” he explained.