Chennai:Injured Rahul Dravid's absence from next month's Test series against South Africa was a "big blow" for the team, but India are a confident lot after starting the year on a winning note against Bangladesh, said opener Gautam Gambhir.
"Rahul Dravid has been the wall of Indian middle order batting and his absence against a quality team such as South Africa will be a big blow," said Gambhir, a brand ambassador of MRF, after flagging off the Formula 1600 race in the MRF Challenge series.
"But we have begun 2010 well (by winning against Bangladesh). The players would want to carry the momentum against South Africa. Moreover, injuries are part and parcel of sports, and it gives other players an opportunity to prove their mettle against a tough opposition," he said.
Dravid has been ruled out of the two-Test series against the Proteas starting February 6 after the right-hander fractured his jaw during the just-concluded Bangladesh tour.
Gambhir said South Africa have a strong pace attack in Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel but Indian duo of Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma are no less potent.
"They have a strong bowling pair in Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel. We need to start off well upfront to keep them at bay."
Though we don't have S Sreesanth, Zaks (Zaheer Khan) has been bowling extremely well recently. His performance in Bangladesh speaks volumes of the form he is in.
"Ishant Sharma has also been bowling well in Test and we do have a good balance in bowling," said Gambhir Gambhir said India will have to make a good start in all departments of the game if they want to beat Graeme Smith's men.
"We have to play well as a team. It would be crucial for us to get a good start, either batting or bowling first. If we are batting first we need to put up a good total to back up the bowlers. If we are bowling first, we need to take crucial early wickets," said the top-ranked ICC Test batsman.
"They (South Africa) did well when they were here the last time, but didn't win the series. They will surely carry some confidence from that tour. But we have started off the year well by winning the series against Bangladesh. We have a lot of cricket ahead and it is good to start the year on such a positive note," he said.
Gambhir sought to stay away from the controversy surrounding Pakistani players IPL III snub this year. "I have no clue about it. But despite the absence of Pakistan players, we have a good pack of foreign cricketers.
There are some very good foreign players though we don't have Mohammad Asif, but I think there is a good balance," said the Delhi Daredevils captain.