India must have fixed batting slots if they are to taste success on the bouncy South African pitches, says Aamir Sohail who has the distinction of being the skipper of the only team from Asia to have beaten South Africa in their own den.
Sohail was the leader of the Pakistani side which beat South Africa by 29 runs in Kingsmead, Durban, on arguably the bounciest of all South African pitches in 1998, and importantly he did it with a rank inexperienced team.
Sohail, understandably, is proud of the achievement and his advice to the Indians is simple -- the batsmen must be told of their roles, but for that to happen, their batting slots too now must be fixed -- something, the Indians still appear averse to doing.
"Indians, I feel, should have their roles defined in the present series. For instance, I can't understand what Mohammad Kaif is doing so low in the order. He doesn't have the flamboyance and the strokes to lash out in the final overs.
"The likes of Suresh Raina should be tried up the order, it doesn't matter if he fails for a few innings. But if you back his talent then you should give him a fair leeway," said the former Pakistani captain who is here in his capacity as a TV commentator for the current series.
The technical adjustments that Sohail said the players need to make was also uncomplicated --- if it is batsmen, they shouldn't ground the bat as much as they should lift and keep it in the air before the ball is delivered.
And for bowlers, they should simly follow the instructions to the hilt.
"I made this small adjustment of keeping the bat in the air before the ball was delivered. It just allowed me that extra split second to adjust to the pace and bounce," recalled Sohail.
"But more than my batting, it was making a new young side to perform which taxed me the most."
The similarity between that Pakistani team and the present one from India is uncanny.
Like the Indians, Pakistan had quite a few youngsters in their ranks. The present rage Mohammad Yousuf, then Yousuf Youhana, made his debut as did Mohammad Wasim and Fazl-e-Akbar. Shoaib Akhtar was playing only his third Test and Azhar Mahmood in his eighth.
"So untested was the batting for me in the series that I asked keeper Moin Khan to come up the order at number six," Sohail said, a situation in which the Indians find themselves as well and are mulling sending wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni up the order in the series.
"It was important for me that the team understood my instructions clearly. Their roles were clearly defined. Azhar Mahmood was to bowl his inswingers at the South African batsmen and I had six fielders for him on the onside.
"The role of leggie Mushtaq Mohammad was to bowl from round the stump. Vicky (Waqar Younis) was asked to be a stock bowler. If he wanted to attack in a certain mode, then he was told to make sure that he had his best fielders in those positions."