As someone who has excelled at opening the innings in England and Australia, Murali Vijay carries a lot of Team India's batting hopes with him on what should be a demanding campaign in South Africa.
Speaking on the possibility of facing the Protean quicks on a greenish pitch here, Vijay said, “It [the pitch] is quite green. I don’t know how it is going to behave on day one. Everybody in our dressing room is looking forward to the first day.”
READ: Opening conundrum for India as African safari beckons
Asked which was more difficult to cope with – swing or bounce – Vijay answered “Swing I think, because of bounce, personally I am able to manage better. When ball swings around, it becomes difficult for any batsman to read the shape of the ball.”
On former South African captain and opener Graeme Smith observing that South Africa was the most difficult place for openers, Vijay said, “I agree with him [Smith]. It is difficult but at the same time, you learn a lot of things. If you have some X-factor in your game, you can use it when you get into a similar situation the next time.”
READ: Dhawan fit for first Test, Jadeja down with viral “illness”
Vijay jocularly said his learning in these conditions was better than that of Smith, who hadn’t faced the South African attack in a Test here, and added, “Sometimes it is more about the mind games. You have to be mentally prepared to counter the conditions.”
On his leaving-the-ball-outside-off approach, Vijay said, “You cannot have a set pattern. You cannot go into a Test match thinking you are going to leave so many balls. You also have to be in a frame of mind where you have to score runs. I am preparing to be more open than what I was the last time here."
READ: Bumrah can be good choice for 1st Test: Nehra
'Contest between bat and ball, not names'
Meanwhile, South African paceman Vernon Philander is bound to probe Vijay and rest of the Indian batsmen on and around the off-stump.
Queried about bowling at some top Indian batsmen, Philander said, “We are looking at the series as a contest between bat and ball. We are not looking at names.”
Dwelling on the pitch, Philander said, “There's obviously some grass on the wicket. I've seen a lot of similar wickets here and they haven't done much. Obviously, there's some grass there but I don't think it's going to scare anyone.”
READ: Shastri: ‘Next 18 months will define Indian cricket’
While noting that the team combination was flexible and depended on conditions which could still change ahead of the Test, Philander said: “Our combination of three pacemen and a spinner has worked very well for us over the last 18 months.”