Since 2006, South Africa boast series wins in Pakistan, England (twice), Australia (twice), Pakistan, New Zealand, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the West Indies.
“We have the willpower to adapt quickly and effectively, embracing the change of culture and identifying what we need to alter,” said Philander about South Africa’s proud record.
“Our batsmen have also been splendid against spin,” he said. In their test-series win in Sri Lanka in 2014, the first in 21 years, JP Duminy and Dean Elgar recorded tons and demonstrated that the team don’t necessarily lean too heavily on AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla.
Philander also referred to South Africa’s ability to change the tempo of the match, depending on the requirements of circumstances.
An example was the stone-walling by Faf du Plessis and De Villiers at the Adelaide Oval in 2012 when Du Plessis batted for 466 minutes to score his ton, while De Villiers faced 220 deliveries for his 33 in defying the Australian attack.
In the subsequent series-decider at the WACA in Perth, De Villiers and Amla changed gears as Amla hammered his 196 off 221 balls, and De Villiers struck 169 off 184 deliveries.
Philander’s patient unbeaten 27 off 105 balls in the second test at Colombo in 2014 almost certainly denied Sri Lanka the winning spoils as the match ended in a draw.
The 30-year old seam bowler, who has captured 123 wickets in 41 tests for South Africa and his world-class partnership with Dale Steyn and Morné Morkel has been one of the standout-features of South Africa’s success the past three years.
Yet Philander has identified his speed (or lack thereof) as an area that requires some change. He said he has worked on his upper-body strength, core strength and overall fitness in order to add five to seven kilometres per hour, and doesn’t rule out the possibility of reaching 140 km/h on occasions.
“I identified that area since coming back from the county-series. I want that extra yard of pace.”
Philander says that speed could be a bonus with the older ball, especially if one generates reverse swing on the subcontinent-wickets.
That search for more speed won’t deter from his focus of being a classical line-and-length-practitioner whose most success has come through his excellent probing and ability to bamboozle batsmen with late movement into or away from the right-hander.
Asked about the changes required to operate successfully in India, Philander said: “Your mode of dismissal changes. You might employ more fielders in front of the wicket, like short extra cover of short midwicket. You also have to bowl slightly straighter than in England, Australia or South Africa.”
Probed about the success recipe with Morkel (218 wickets in 64 tests ) and Steyn (402 wickets in 80 tests), Philander said the trio offer different skills sets. Steyn swings it late,Morkel generates bounce while he moves it late off the seam (both ways).
“I think we have a very good chance of winning in India. The test team is a settled unit and experienced, with the exception of one or two new faces. This squad has so much confidence in winning away from home.”