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Buoyant India braced for SA backlash

The focus has shifted even more sharply to the World Cup with India naming their final 15 on Monday. This, along with the continual process of key players walking out with injuries, is certain to remove some sheen from the current series that is nicely poised at the moment following India's staggering win in Johannesburg. Subhash Rajta reports.

cricket Updated: Jan 18, 2011 01:42 IST
Subhash Rajta
Subhash Rajta
Hindustan Times
Subhash Rajta

The focus has shifted even more sharply to the World Cup with India naming their final 15 on Monday. This, along with the continual process of key players walking out with injuries, is certain to remove some sheen from the current series that is nicely poised at the moment following India's staggering win in Johannesburg on Saturday.

Nevertheless, there's still a lot at stake for both the teams going into Tuesday's third ODI, apart from the obvious incentive of winning an international series. For India, the contest might have ceased to be an opportunity to fine-tune their combinations and tactical moves with four key players out because of injury. However, there is still a lot that can be derived from the series.

First and foremost, India's batsmen need to get their act together. Except for Virat Kohli's half century in the first ODI in Durban, there hasn't been any convincing batting performance in the two ODIs. Yuvraj Singh did hit a half-century in the last match at Johannesburg, but the left-hander wasn't at his best.

Given that batsmen would hold the key in the World Cup, they can't afford a string of low scores and go in low on confidence. What would help their cause is the fact that the remaining three ODIs will be played on South Africa's slower tracks.http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/HTEditImages/Images/18_01_pg21a.jpg

India might give a look-in to World Cup certainties like spinners R Ashwin and Piyush Chawla, who hasn't played an ODI for more than two years. Yusuf Pathan, though, is set to get his first game on Tuesday.

For South Africa, there's an immediate concern. The Johannesburg loss has apparently stung them and they look desperate to come back with a bang. That loss has seen doubts being raised about their mental strength in crunch situations, and they just can't afford to let it gain any further ground ahead of the World Cup. Interestingly, they have been mentally most vulnerable in the World Cups.

"The boys are really hurt," said South Africa coach Corrie van Zyl, giving vent to the team's feeling. "But then you have to turn every bad experience around. One just has to work through it."