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India all set for 1st ODI

cricket Updated: Jan 12, 2011 09:52 IST
Subhash Rajta
Subhash Rajta
Hindustan Times
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The Kingsmead track, as expected, has completely changed colour for the shorter format. The green pasture laid out for the Test match that prompted Harbhajan Singh into remarking "it has enough grass for two goats", the track sports a grassless look ahead of the first ODI on Wednesday.

While that should gladden batsmen from both sides, there are a few statistics India would find hard to dismiss as they head into the battle for supremacy in the shorter format.

India have won just three matches out of the 20 ODIs here against South Africa; the last ODI win came almost decade ago; they were blanked 4-0 on the last tour in 2006-07; and, more importantly, they were bowled out for 91 runs in their last ODI in Durban.

With their ODI record looking as bad as their Test record was prior to the recent series, India will have a fair bit of work to do to set the record straight.

Skipper MS Dhoni sees a sliver lining in this dark cloud. "We lost all matches last time around. But this is a completely different team from the one we had last time. I see it as a big learning curve for the youngsters."

While India have their task cut out, South Africa too would have their recent record at Kingsmead, albeit in Tests, playing on their mind. They have lost their last three Tests here - the latest to India.

"There are a lot of fresh faces in this ODI squad. I would like them not to think of the past. My job is to give them a positive experience and help them play their natural game," said Graeme Smith.

While the series acquires extra importance given the World Cup is around the corner, Dhoni looks at the positives it can throw up beyond the tournament as well. The Indian team is due to travel to England and Australia after that, and the South Africa experience will come in handy to youngsters.

"It's a good opportunity for the youngsters. Rather than seeing it as a pressure situation, it would be nice to score runs and give selectors more options. If they score here, they will surely have some priority over others when the team is picked for away tours," said Dhoni.

All said and done, India will be desperate to win the ODI series not only to spruce up their record in ODIs but also head into the World Cup high on confidence.

Injured Praveen out
Injured all rounder Praveen Kumar is heading home and paceman Ishant Sharma will return to South Africa as replacement. Praveen aggravated an old elbow injury during the T20 win on Sunday.