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NAGPUR - South Africa will draw confidence from their record on the subcontinent as they seek to replace India at the top of the world rankings in their two-Test series starting tomorrow.
India dislodged South Africa as the No 1 Test side in December after beating Sri Lanka 2-0 at home, and a series victory against the Proteas would consolidate their position. The International Cricket Council (ICC) said yesterday that Graeme Smith's tourists will return to the top if they win the series.
"If South Africa beats India by 1-0, it will go to 123 rating points and India will drop to 122 points," the ICC said.
"In case of a 2-0 win, the Proteas will rise to 125 rating points and India will drop to 120 points." Smith, speaking ahead of the first Test in Nagpur, said: "India now hold the mantle of No 1 in the world, which is a credit to the way they have played.
"But we have come here to hopefully play better than them."
Smith said it was tough to win a series on the subcontinent and success is "a real feather in your cap".
"But we won in Pakistan on our last tour there, we won in Bangladesh, we came very close to winning the series here in India. We were 1-0 going into the last Test, so I think generally we have played well," he said.
On their last tour of India in 2008, South Africa won on a greentop in Ahmedabad, before the hosts levelled the series on a turning wicket in Kanpur. The first Test was drawn.
South Africa go into the series after a week of turmoil at home that ended in the resignation of coach Mickey Arthur.
National High Performance coach Corrie van Zyl has taken over for the tour, which also features three ODIs.
India are depleted by injuries sustained during a 2-0 away victory over Bangladesh. Rahul Dravid is recuperating after surgery for a fractured jaw while Yuvraj Singh is nursing a sore left wrist.
Top wicketkeeper Dhoni has also been suffering from a troublesome back, forcing the national selectors to pick uncapped Wriddhiman Saha as his cover. Their pace attack will be without the mercurial Shanthakumaran Sreesanth.
India's chairman of selectors Krish Srikkanth conceded that Dravid's experience will be missed, but said: "We have the most feared batsman in the world in Viru (Virender Sehwag), the best opening pair in the world in Viru and Gautam Gambhir, and then we have great players like Sachin Tendulkar."
The second Test will be played at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata from February 14. - Sapa-AFP