The world's best fast bowler Dale Steyn says he is not banking on unfair home advantage when India travel to South Africa in December. India will be touring South Africa with a new-look squad as Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Company begins life without a Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid or VVS Laxman. When India toured South Africa in 2010-11, Tendulkar was the highest scorer with two Test centuries. (Read: Shikhar Dhawan is the find of the year for India: Sunil Gavaskar to NDTV)
The upcoming series will be an acid test for India's young Turks like Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma. The troika has taken the world by storm with their intrepid batting against quality opposition. Dhawan, who helped India score a five-wicket win in the decisive ODI in Kanpur on Wednesday with a career-best 119, is the only batsman to score six international centuries this year while Sharma rocketed into the world top 20 with consistent performances, including a double century (209) against Australia in Bangalore. Sharma's domination can be gauged from the fact that he struck a world record 16 sixes at Chinnaswamy against a quality attack. He erased the record of 15 sixes clubbed by Shane Watson against Bangladesh. (Read: Dhawan first player to record 6 hundreds in 2013)
Kohli, of course, remains the best advertisement of new-generation India. More matured, composed and letting his bat do most of the talking, Kohli is the world's No. 1 ODI batsman and the upcoming series will see a mouth-watering contest between him and AB De Villiers, the South African genius who bats, keeps and leads the ODI side. Therefore, all eyes will on India's new 'holy' trinity and how they handle a man called, Steyn. (Read: From T20s to ODIs to Tests, Rohit Sharma banks on momentum)
Steyn has been on fire in the recent ODI series against Pakistan. He has bagged 14 wickets in his last three ODIs with a career-best 6 for 39 at Port Elizabeth. But the leading South African pacer is not banking on unfair home advantage to challenge a clutch of hungry Indians looking to establish their street-fighter image on challenging turfs. Writing in his newspaper column, Steyn said: "I am not in favour of extreme pitches. If our curators left a thick covering of green grass on any of the pitches, then who is to say Zaheer (Khan) and all the other fast bowlers in the squad won't have success against our batsman?"
Cricket has always been about "home advantage," but Steyn's views will be food for thought for pundits who are expecting Indian batsmen to wilt under pace and bounce. It's only fair to make balanced wickets, but Steyn's reaction clearly establishes the fact that South Africa have a high respect for new-age India and more importantly, on a bowling attack that has the ability to exploit conditions favourable for seamers. (Read: For Zaheer Khan, patience has been key; will he be India's Mitchell Johnson?)
"Obviously, we have all encountered extremely dry, slow and spin-friendly pitches in India that suits India's strengths, but I believe that approach is counterproductive," wrote Steyn. Saying fast bowlers can also survive on less friendly wickets, Steyn is expecting "good pitches and not green seamers." Steyn promises a fierce contest but wants evenly balanced playing conditions. India play three ODIs starting December 5. This will be followed by Tests at Johannesburg and Durban. December, therefore, will be the start of a long season of making or breaking a few careers.