India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni said on Wednesday that getting used to the pace and bounce" in South African conditions will be the biggest challenge for his young team, which is in South Africa to play three ODIs and two Tests.
"One of the biggest challenge is to get used to the pace and bounce. If you are just new to the international circuit, then it becomes more of a challenge. The reason being, in India even on the best of wickets you don't get the same pace, or even bowlers who can generate similar pace and bounce.
"So it makes slightly more difficult for the players who have just made their debut in the international arena," Dhoni told reporters at the pre-match press conference.
He also believed that there are some players who have had international experience.
"But at the same time there are few players (in the side) who have been playing for the last few seasons and have had a decent outing all over the world. When you come to the same venue, you know how the situation or condition will be, and it gives an edge to adapt quickly. At the end of the day experience always counts."
The battle will be between Indian batsmen and South Africa bowlers, and how they cope up with the likes of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander will be intriguing to say the least.
"Strategies have always been formed against batsmen. Batsmen form their own strategies to counter bowlers' plans. The real challenge is how you are able to change your game and adapt as per different conditions. More important than strategies is who scores more runs and takes more wickets," said Dhoni.
"It is important how you exploit conditions," he replied, when pointed out.
"It's not important if you have the best bowlers. I think we have done pretty well. There have been ups and downs. We have really struggled when there is dew on the field or the wickets are really flat surfaces. That's an area where our bowlers haven't done outstandingly well," Dhoni said.
"But if there is help for them, fast bowlers or spinners, they have made use of it and done well. So we are happy with how they have done, quite happy with both ups and downs."
Although, MS Dhoni admitted that he hadn't seen the pitch, early on AB de Villiers had talked about the amount of grass on it. If some of it stays on Thursday, even the hosts will be wary of the threat Indian bowlers can pose. Both captains have candidly agreed that saving wickets early on, for an attack in the death overs, is the safest bet.
"Irrespective of where you are playing, wickets in hand always get you good runs in last 8-10 overs. In subcontinents, the wickets slow down and sometimes it is difficult for the new batsmen to come in and play shots. In those circumstances, we have not been able to get par-plus scores.
"If there is good pace and bounce, we have seen that generally batsmen can get runs in the last 8-10 overs, and they add on to the par-plus score," said Dhoni.
"South Africa is one place where I believe a lot depends on how the conditions are, how the wickets are prepared, and whether it is overcast or a bright sunny day when wickets can be very good for batting. A lot will depend on what the circumstances are on that day," he added.
It is a fact that India go into this ODI rubber as the world's number one side but are still looking for their first bilateral ODI series win in South Africa. (Read: India in South Africa: Top Five battles to watch out for)
"It is not about favourites. The poor record wasn't on my mind, but there have been instances, where we had an opportunity to win the series, but we didn't cash in on it.
So, what is important is how you play cricket on that particular day. We have seen that in ODIs, you need to get off to a good start. With two new ball rule and especially if conditions favour the fast bowlers, it is important how you play the first ten overs. Having wickets in hand, cashing in on the last 15 overs to get par plus score and then how you defend it. It all depends on how you play and the kind of impact individuals have on that day."
"We are working on our strengths in batting and bowling, and accordingly we will try to make the most of it. If we don't have bowlers who don't bowl at 145 or 150 km/h then there is no point thinking about pace and bounce.
"But if you have someone who can swing the ball, then we will make the most of conditions here with two new balls, try to get wickets in first ten overs and that can have an impact on the game."
"We have won a few games where we haven't scored a lot of runs. At the same time we have won quite a few games where we have scored 350 while chasing.
"In the past one year if you see, we have equal instances of players chasing down over 300 runs and at the same time defending something close to 150 (number of overs were reduced). So, to say which a better pick is, I cannot say," Dhoni opined.
"Whenever we have played South Africa, it has been a tough series and you hardly see any individuals crossing the line. We have a lot of love and respect for them. We hope they continue with their same (poor) form, but it is their home conditions, so they will definitely be ready.
"Only thing in a three match series is that it becomes difficult if a team lags behind and loses the first game." Dhoni signed off.