South Africa's last Test tour to India was an absolute nightmare, with the Proteas losing the four-match series 3-0 with only rain in the Bangalore Test preventing an outright whitewash. Heading into the series in 2019, South Africa face an uphill task. India have not lost at home since 2012 and players like Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma and Cheteshwar Pujara add a lot of depth to the squad. With Hanuma Vihari and Mayank Agarwal displaying their solid prowess, combined with India's pace and spin reserves, South Africa face an uphill task.
In the tour game against Board President's XI in Vizianagaram, South Africa were boosted by Aiden Markram's century and Temba Bavuma's fifty while Vernon Philander contributed with 48 runs and two wickets, including the wicket of Rohit for 0. Speaking to the official ICC website, Philander urged South Africa's senior players to go after India's 'Top Dogs', which meant all the top players in the Indian side.
"Spotlight will be on a lot of big players to make a statement. Our job is to come here and give the first punch as India is obviously expected to do well. It's a tough start to play India in India but I don't think the South Africans would have wanted it any other way which is to take the big dogs in their home ground," Philander said.
Philander, who had picked up 15 wickets during South Africa's last Test series against India in 2018 which they won 2-1, wants the senior players to leave behind a legacy for the youngsters. "We have lost some senior players and there are new players coming in and we want them to learn quickly. Hopefully we can use the experience of the senior players that are still around and mold this into a good Test side for the years to come. That's the most important part, to lay a good foundation for players to take forward," Philander said.
Philander also spoke about the World Test Championship and said it added a different dimension to Test cricket. "The Test championship brings in a new dimension. It is a new sort of excitement for players. Also knowing that you will be playing against top teams more often (is great). We are obviously prepared to do well. When we do well, it gives you that better confidence and I'll take that confidence with me. It's been a long winter for me and I am feeling in really good nick," Philander said.