India captain Virat Kohli believes his side can use their late World Cup start to their advantage as they prepare to take on South Africa at the AGEAS Bowl on Wednesday.
While almost every other side will have played two matches already, India are only just about to start their World Cup campaign. It is believed they requested such a late start in a bit to recuperate from a long IPL season.
“I think it is a bit of an advantage in terms of understanding how the games have gone, what the conditions have to offer, what the overcast conditions bring into play, ” said the 30-year-old.
“It’s a totally different ball game altogether what the conditions are at 10.30 in the morning compared to the afternoon. We have a lot to absorb … looking at the other teams play, the teams that have done well, what have they done well and in what phases.
“From that point of view, we have a lot of positives [by] starting after everyone else. Whether a team has played before or not wouldn’t matter on the day. It depends on how the side turns out, what kind of mental set-up they have and we have to be mentally and skillfully stronger than the opposition.”
Kohli emphasised the quality of his side’s opponents, despite South Africa missing two key fast bowlers in Dale Steyn and Lungi Ngidi through injury.
“Any team that gets hit with injuries is never a good thing, but still South Africa are a very talented, very dangerous side on their day,” Kohli remarked.
“So we never take anyone lightly and whether a few key players get injured or not, if a youngster is stepping in and he has the right mindset, he can really perform on the day. We need to maintain respect for that and really approach the game, focusing on our strength and what we can do as a side.”
The India captain acknowledges that there’s still enough quality in the Proteas attack to pose problems. “Rabada is always going to be a world-class bowler and a threat to any side he plays against,” he said. “He has the kind of passion and skill-set that he can, on his day, go through any batting order.
“So against guys like Rabada, who can turn up on their day and bowl outstandingly well, you have to be respectful but have that self-belief in yourself as well and that balance will be crucial.”
South Africa have had a dreadful start to their World Cup campaign, losing their first two matches to England and Bangladesh. Their injury-ravaged bowling attack has been inconsistent and is heavily reliant on Imran Tahir during the middle overs. There are some positives with the batting but a big score from one of the top-order batsmen is badly needed.
India are yet to play in this World Cup but have won ten of their last twelve ODI series. However, they lost their last series 3-2 at home to Australia and were beaten by New Zealand in one of their two World Cup warm-up games after being bowled out for 179.
Head-to-Head: Kagiso Rabada v Virat Kohli
With Steyn and Ngidi out, Rabada needs to be at his explosive best as the leader of South Africa’s thinning pace attack. The 24-year-old has taken an expensive 2-123 from his two matches in the tournament after breaking down during the IPL. It’s difficult to envisage the Proteas claiming victory without their speedster returning to top form.
Kohli is India’s superstar and the pillar of their batting hopes. His numbers in ODI cricket are sensational and he is one of the greatest one-day batsman in history when it comes to chasing down a total. South Africa know he’s the prized asset and will look to Rabada to remove him early before he inflicts too much damage.