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Dravid, Chappell off to SA with optimism

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November 13, 2006 18:47 IST

Hours before embarking on the tour of South Africa, India's captain Rahul Dravid told his players not to be weighed down by past failures, but treat the upcoming series as a challenge and an opportunity to excel.

Dravid said it is imperative that the established batsmen score runs during the tour, which assumes importance with the World Cup round the corner.

- India in South Africa

"We have to adjust to the bouncing ball in South Africa; that will be critical. The batsmen have to show patience. I think the courage and character of the team will be tested," Dravid told a pre-departure press conference in Mumbai on Monday.

The team leaves on Monday night for South Africa, where it is scheduled to play a five-match one-day series and three Tests.

"We have not done well in the past few months, but I want to view this tour as a great opportunity," he said.

Dravid said the wickets in South Africa will allow batsmen to play their shots.

"On the low and slow wickets here, the backfoot game was taken out. It will give us a lot more options to play our shots."

The Karnataka batsman said Yuvraj Singh, who has been ruled out of the tour because of a knee ligament injury, will be missed, but his absence would give an opportunity to some other player to prove his worth.

"Yuvraj had a great run for the last one-and-half years, but we cannot do anything about injuries. It will give another youngster an opportunity to put in some good performances," he said.

"We missed Sachin (Tendulkar), Viru (Sehwag) and Harbhajan at some stages. It is always disappointing to lose a key player. Youngsters learn from these opportunities and, hopefully, when Yuvraj is back, we will have a better team."

Asked whether the additional responsibility of captaincy is affecting his batting, he replied: "I am constantly learning, facing new challenges. I have done well as a batsman even when I am captain. I am pretty confident in handling the two roles.

"What is important is to score the runs; that applies not only to me but to everybody," he said.

Dravid said the team had worked on the gray areas and is going into the series with a positive frame of mind.

"We have worked on the areas which need improvement. We are pretty clear what we need to do. Such tours tend to bring people together and I hope we can play some good cricket."

Coach Greg Chappell, who was also present at the press conference, said the team has the wherewithal to do well in South Africa, as the wickets there will favour stroke-play.

"We have some players who have done well. The tracks there will give us more options for playing strokes unlike the wickets in the subcontinent. But what is most important is to put the basics together.

Dravid felt that despite not having a chance to play any cricket for more than ten days, all the players are in the groove, having trained with their respective Ranji Trophy squads after India were knocked out of the ICC Champions Trophy on October 29.

"I have been practising with the Karnataka Ranji team and so have all the other players. We have the batsmen and the bowlers to take on South Africa. The batsmen need to show patience and courage."

Chappell brushed aside the fact that India have not won a Test match in previous trips to South Africa.

"History is not going to make much of a difference. We went to the West Indies where we had not won for 35 years and came back with a Test series win. We formulated a game-plan and stuck to it. We need to do the basics well."

Chappell said the series would offer the team a chance to develop as a unit.

"This is a great opportunity to develop as a group. If we play as well as we can then it will be a good series."

Chappell too felt Yuvraj's absence was a big blow but hoped someone else would come out of his shadow and shine like Glenn McGrath did in 1995 on Australia's tour of the West Indies.