Cricket World Cup 2015

India look to unsettle Proteas

2015-02-21 08:43
Mahendra Singh Dhoni (AFP)

Melbourne - India appear relaxed and refreshed, and will seek to unsettle the Proteas in their World Cup clash on Sunday, but the facade could be short-lived when the two Pool B heavyweights take the field.

Some 80 000 fans at the Melbourne Cricket Ground are in for a treat in the day-night match that will almost certainly assure the winner a place in the quarter-finals from Pool B.

Both teams won their opening games, defending champions India thrashing Pakistan by 76 runs in Adelaide last Sunday and South Africa beating Zimbabwe by 62 runs in Hamilton earlier the same day.

The margin of victories were deceptive because while India outplayed their arch-rivals, South Africa were severely tested with both bat and ball by their lowly-ranked rivals.

The Proteas were wobbling at 83 for four before being bailed out by a brilliant record stand of 256 for the fifth wicket between century-makers David Miller and JP Duminy.

Zimbabwe then made a valiant chase of 339 for four, reaching 191 for two in the 33rd over before the last eight wickets fell for 86 runs to hand South Africa full points.

Leg-spinner Imran Tahir's three for 36 hid a disappointing outing for pace spearhead Dale Steyn, whose nine overs cost 64 runs for one wicket.

It was later revealed Steyn was suffering from sinusitis, which continued for so long that he missed training till Wednesday, but now appears to be returning to top gear.

South Africa need Steyn to fire to contain the deep Indian batting, against whom he took five for 50 the last time the two sides met in the World Cup in Nagpur four years ago.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men overcame that defeat to lift the title a fortnight later, but they will still be wary of what awaits them at the gigantic MCG on Sunday.

Having extended their World Cup domination over Pakistan to six matches in a row, India now face an adversary to whom they have lost all times in the premier 50-overs-a-side tournament.

The Indians spent a relaxed week in Melbourne since the high-profile clash against Pakistan, alternating between net sessions and rest days without publicly disclosing the likely line-up for the big game.

Media speculation of injuries to off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin and seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar were quickly dispelled by the team management, which announced that all 15 squad members were available.

India's former World Cup- winning coach Gary Kirsten, who is now a consultant with his native South Africa, will stress on exploiting India's weak bowling to counter the strong batting led by Virat Kohli.

Kirsten is one of six specialists on the coaching staff to help South Africa overcome the unwanted tag of being the best team never to have won the World Cup.

Besides chief coach Russell Domingo and Kirsten, the Proteas have three bowling coaches in Allan Donald, Charl Langeveldt and Claude Henderson and have also hired Australian Mike Hussey to provide inputs during the tournament.

The lone missing link is a psychologist and Domingo said he wanted the team to focus on cricketing skills.

"You can't be mentally strong but have bad skills," he said.

Domingo also did not believe his side had a psychological advantage over India because South Africa had not lost to them in the World Cup.

"India are the current world champions and a wonderful one-day side," he said. "Whatever has happened in the past in previous World Cups will count for very little on Sunday.

"It is going to be a big stage for some of our players who haven't experienced that type of atmosphere before. There's a lot you can take out of a good result against India."

Read more on:    india  |  proteas  |  cwc 2015  |  ms dhoni  |  russell domingo  |  cricket

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