Nagpur:India will find it difficult to cope with the absence of middle-order mainstay Rahul Dravid despite having quality replacements at their disposal during the upcoming two-Test series, feels South Africa captain Graeme Smith.
Addressing the media for the first time after the team landed on Sunday, Smith said he was keen to know who would fill in the vital slot of Dravid, who underwent a surgery on his jaw that was broken in Bangladesh during the second Test at Mirpur.
"They still have quality players there, but to lose somebody of the calibre of Rahul Dravid with an incredible career of over 10,000 runs is always very difficult," the left-handed batsman said.
"There is still a lot of quality in the Indian team. No. 3 is obviously a key position in any batting line-up, so it is going to be very interesting to see whom they choose to use there," he said.
"The rest of their guys are pretty set in their batting positions so it will be interesting to see if they put (uncapped) S Badrinath at No. 3 or somebody else there," Smith told reporters.
The Proteas will start their tour with a two-day practice match against the Cricket Board President's XI before taking on India in the Test series opener on February 6. The second match starts in Kolkata on February 14.
Proteas coach Mickey Arthur stepped down just a few days before their departure to India but Smith said he and interim coach Corrie van Zyl can dovetail their plans effectively together.
"As far as having a new coach in Corrie is concerned, we have worked together before and we had a good session today. The players are all going about their work as normal to make sure we are all prepared as best as we can be come Saturday," Smith said.
Arthur put in his papers following differences with the Cricket South Africa which later sacked the entire selection panel headed by Mike Proctor.
Smith said the number one Test spot was not much of a priority for them as the team was focussed on winning the series.
"The No. 1 ranking is not really an issue for us. India have been playing good cricket, that is why they are ranked No. 1. We will concentrate on our own game. We know that if we perform to our levels and our standards we can put India under a lot of pressure," he said.
Smith also pointed out SA's good record in the sub-continent, including in India in the last series.
"Our recent record on the sub-continent is pretty good. We won in Pakistan, we won in Bangladesh and we came very close to winning a series here in India. We were 1-0 up going into the last Test match," he said.
Smith said that after having beaten both England and Australia in their backyards, his team was aiming to add another feather to its cap by bearding the Indian lion in its own den.
"There are few teams who have come here and won here. But we have won in England and we have won in Australia, so this is our opportunity to tick this particular box as a team. Beating a major opponent on their home ground is a real achievement and it is a wonderful opportunity for this group of players," he said.