Nagpur:Rahul Dravid is as important for India as Jacques Kallis is for South Africa, said visiting middle-order batsman AB de Villiers, insisting that the experienced right-hander's absence will hurt the hosts in the Test series starting on Saturday.
"The number three spot is the biggest one according to me. People don't realise how big a spot that is. A guy like Dravid has stood like a rock under pressure for the Indian side and to lose that is like us losing Kallis. You can't replace a guy like that," said de Villiers at a media meet on Thursday.
His younger teammate and rookie left-arm pacer Wayne Parnell too echoed similar views on the absence of Dravid from the Indian line-up for the series opener.
"Rahul is a major loss to the Indian team but there are guys like (VVS) Laxman, (Virender) Sehwag and (Gautam) Gambhir who can get big hundreds," Parnell said.
De Villiers said playing on the Indian soil was not a very difficult task if one knew his strengths and weaknesses.
"Knowing your own game plans, knowing your strengths and weaknesses -- that's the secret (of playing in sub-continent). It's not unplayable over here. A guy who knows where the dangerous areas are normally does well here," said 25-year-old batsman who scored a fantastic double century in a Test in Ahmedabad three years ago.
"It's about not being too worried about the conditions and other players. We know ball comes slower and turns. I worry about my own game. It's a mental thing," explained de Villiers who has scored over 3800 runs in 56 Tests.
He said playing against Pakistan and Bangladesh before coming to India in 2008 helped him in conquering the conditions during his double ton, among the best of his tally of nine three-figure knocks.
"We played Pakistan prior to that and in Bangladesh. It was certainly a knock that showed I could play a long innings. Year before last, I worked with Kallis in the pre-season camp in Ireland and my whole mental make up changed. After that I have been a different player," de Villiers said.
De Villiers said he has enjoyed playing for the Indian Premier League outfit Delhi Daredevils with host openers Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir.
"I enjoyed playing with Sehwag and Gambhir, two nice guys. I really enjoyed the city, to be in the team with them and the Australians. It has been enjoyable even playing against my own teammates," he said.
The South African batsman said he has given a few tips to his team's bowlers on how to bowl to this deadly Indian duo, and expressed the hope they would work.
"I have been talking about a couple of areas they can be bowled to. Hopefully it works," de Villiers said.
Parnell was also in awe of Sehwag's big knocks and said if they cannot get him out cheaply then the best way would be to dry up the runs.
"He's a big player. He scored that triple hundred in Chennai, he got 290 or something against Sri Lanka recently. He can score big once he gets in. If he does get in, we will try to dry it up," he said.
The 20-year-old said he idolised Indian left arm bowlers Ashish Nehra and Zaheer Khan growing up.
"I got to see Ashish Nehra while growing up and he's probably one of my idols, and in the past two three years Zaheer Khan, a very skillful bowler. They are obviously skillful bowlers," he said.
Parnell felt the key to doing well in Indian conditions would be to try variations in bowling that are not needed back home or in Australia.
"Australian conditions are very similar to South Africa. When we come to the sub-continent, it's a different ball game. We have to adapt accordingly. We need to work out on certain variations which we won't need in South Africa or Australia as the subcontinent is not conducive to fast bowling," he said.