To me, what stood out the most from India's comprehensive victory over Pakistan was their intent and positive body language which remained a constant factor through the match. I'm hoping we get an encore at the MCG Sunday, as nothing less will do against a South African team who look a complete unit to me.
Not for any reason are the Proteas many people's favourites to win an elusive World Cup trophy. I would put them right up there alongside co-hosts Australia and New Zealand with reigning champions India completing what I think could likely be the semifinal lineup. But more on that later. Staying in the present, South Africa are simply a team that are blessed with experience and class. And even for a side studded with several experienced hands, they are still a strikingly agile bunch. What adds to their strength is the fact that it's the same players, more or less, who've been playing together for the past two to three years. Another factor in their favour is the wickets in Australia are similar to what South Africa are accustomed to playing on back home.
But I'm a firm believer in the quality of our boys. Be it skill or aggression, they are more than a match for the Proteas. And as I said at the start, they have to look to repeat the positive, aggressive brand of cricket that left Pakistan overwhelmed. A good start by Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan is vital. The South African new ball attack is loaded with firepower in the form of Steyn, Morkel and Philander so the key for India will be trying to play out those first 10-15 overs without losing any wickets. If they manage to do that, even at the expense of their scoring rate, then they will be well poised to blaze away later in the innings with the kind of batting to come. I'm aware it didn't quite turn out like that against Pakistan but then that wasn't down to a lack of intent. And each game has its own story.
I hope our bowlers too can pick up from where they left off at Adelaide. Mohammed Shami in particular bowled brilliantly. He was quick, his body language emitted positivity and overall, it was the best I've seen him bowl in Australia all summer. Umesh Yadav was also effective with the older ball. If he can do the same with the new ball, it would be a big boost to the team. What's important is that India don't allow the game to drift from them at any stage, be it with bat or ball.
Former India coach Gary Kirsten serving as a consultant to the South African side has been played up in sections of the media. Honestly, I don't think the Indian players will be dwelling on that too much. At the end of the day, it's South Africa vesus India and not Gary Kirsten versus India, so let's just stay tuned for what transpires on the field.
Source: PMG/GROUPM ESP