'Whichever team starts well, they will have always the advantage because it will be tough for the other team to bounce back in a three-match series.'
Former skipper Ajit Wadekar and Pravin Amre, who hit a century on debut in South Africa in 1992, discuss India's chances.
Harish Kotian listens in.
IMAGE: The Indians celebrate a Sri Lankan wicket in the Nagpur Test, November 24, 2017. Photograph: BCCI
1971 was a watershed moment for Indian cricket.
Ajit Wadekar created history as he led India to its first-ever series victory in the West Indies and followed it up with a maiden series win in England.
Virat Kohli and his team will hope to write a new chapter in Indian cricket as they head to South Africa for a three Test series, aiming to win their first Test series in Mandela country.
India have played six Test series in South Africa, losing five and drawing the 2010 series 1-1.
Overall, India have played 17 Tests in South Africa, winning just two while losing eight and drawing seven.
Wadekar believes Kohli's side, which has a record-equalling nine Test series wins in a row, is capable of winning the South Africa series, the first Test of which begins in Cape Town on January 5.
"At the moment," Wadekar said, "the Indian team is doing really well, they are a balanced team. I think they have enough experience to play on any kind of tracks."
"Their track record suggests that they are in pretty good form and should be able to deliver anywhere," Wadekar said in Mumbai on the sidelines of the Dr Dayal Foundation Awards ceremony, where he was presented the Dr Rameshwar Dayal Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to Indian sport.
BCCI General Manager Professor Ratnakar Shetty was conferred the Dr S Dayal Award of Excellence in the field of sports administration while former India player Pravin Amre was awarded the Dr S Dayal Award of Excellence in the field of sports coaching. Former Mumbai player Amol Muzumdar received the award for excellence in sports.
Wadekar stressed the need for the Indian team to adjust to South African conditions and believed not having a practice game could make it difficult for the visitors.
"South Africa is always a tough country to beat. They have a good team and the wickets are a lot faster. India will have to go there well prepared," the former skipper said.
"You need to get adjusted to those wickets because the wickets are pretty quick. If there are no practice games, then it will be a little bit hard," he said, adding, "But India has a well balanced team and will do well in South Africa."
Wadekar, who captained India from 1971 to 1974, was generous in his praise for Kohli who he said "always plays to win".
Virat is in a different mould entirely. He is a tremendously attacking cricketer. The present day game requires that type of a cricketer because without guys like him you won't be able to attract crowds," Wadekar, an elegant left-hand batsman in his time, said.
"Not only is he attacking, but he is a cricketer who plays for the team. The one thing I like about him is that he likes the team to win at all times, he doesn't like to lose matches which is a great thing," Wadekar pointed out.
Wadekar -- who also coached India in the early 1990s -- supports Kohli's aggression on the field. "Aggression is essential; you can't play with an inferiority complex all the time," he pointed out.
The 76-year-old former chairman of the selectors also came out in support of fellow Mumbaikar Ajinkya Rahane who has struggled for runs recently.
"There comes a time in every cricketer's career when they go through such a phase. I have seen Sunil Gavaskar going through a bad patch, it can happen to any great cricketer," he said.
"Rahane is one of the top cricketers India has produced and will definitely come over the bad patch. The sooner he gets over the bad form, the better it will be for Indian cricket," Wadekar added.
Pravin Amre, who scored a century on debut in South Africa in 1992, also backed Rahane to come good against the Proteas.
"The last time India visited South Africa, he averaged more than 65," Amre said. "The team management and selectors have a lot of faith in him and that is why he is the vice-captain. I am sure on the coming tour, he will live up to people's belief and will deliver the goods."
Amre has coached Mumbai in domestic cricket and has been an assistant coach in the IPL. One of India's most respected coaches, he has guided Rahane, Suresh Raina, Robin Uthappa and Shreyas Iyer among others.
Amre stressed that he is working hard to find out the reasons for Rahane's recent struggles at the crease.
"We worked as a team. Whenever he was successful, when he hit centuries in both innings, the media congratulated me. And when he is going through a tough time, it is my responsibility to find out where exactly he is going wrong," Amre said.
Amre recalled his century in South Africa when he battled against a bowling attack led by Allan Donald.
"When I got that century in South Africa, it was the 20 runs that I got in a game before that match which gave me confidence," Amre recalled.
Rahane averages 53 in 23 overseas Tests, with six hundreds, but has struggled at home with an average of 33 in 18 games.
"We always judge an Indian batsman on how he has performed abroad and that is the big advantage Rahane has," Amre said. "He should believe in his capability to do well."
Amre felt India needs to adjust quickly and get off to a good start else it will be difficult to make a comeback if they lose the opening Test.
"It's all about the conditions. The batsmen need to adjust quickly. It is very important how quickly you adjust," Amre said. "This tour will be more challenging because they don't have any warm up matches. They have to visualise how things are going to happen."
"It is not a five Test series, just three matches, so the first Test will be critical," Amre added. "Whichever team starts well, they will have always the advantage because it will be tough for the other team to bounce back in a three-match series."