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India chase glory against odds

cricket Updated: Jan 21, 2011 00:01 IST
Subhash Rajta
Subhash Rajta
Hindustan Times
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The past stands in India's way to creating history. Ironic it may sound, but that's how it's going to be when India turn out at St. George's Park to win their first ever ODI series in South Africa.

They are just one win away from scripting another first on this tour after drawing the Test series, but at the St. George Park, where they will take the first shot at winning the series, they are yet to taste victory. They have lost all four matches, three against SA, at this venue, and would, therefore, be battling against history to create one on Friday.

Besides, weather, too, could play a spoilsport. It's raining here on the eve of the match, and, as per the forecast, Friday will also see some rain in the afternoon. That they are already on the brink of making history in itself is quite fantastic. Given how SA mauled them in the first match, and how they didn't let the absence of four first choice players - Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Praveen Kumar - affect their morale and performance is commendable.

But even as India stand at a sniffing distance from what would be a spectacular win, more so when the World Cup is just around the corner, India captain MS Dhoni refused to look any further than the match.

"We aren't thinking about anything right now. It's important to be in a positive (frame of mind) and not let the mind fluctuate too much. We are just concentrating on doing the right things and not making the mistakes we have made in the past," he said.

For South Africa, though, it's a must-win game, a situation they aren't used to on home turf. They have been a formidable side in their backyard and have lost just three bilateral ODI series since their return to the international cricket. Two of those defeats came against Australia in 1997 and 2002, and the last came against England in 2009.

Apart from defending their good overall record at home, they would be desperate to break the chain of two narrow and painful losses. The two close losses have already seen people starting all over again to question their ability to perform in pressure situations, and another loss is sure to make situation even worse for them.

"Losing is never nice, but there are important lessons for us in the last two games. Tomorrow is an important game that we must win. It's a good challenge," said Graeme Smith.

The South African skipper also felt that naming of the World Cup squad too would lift some pressure off their minds and help them play freely. "Hopefully we will play with a lot more freedom tomorrow," he said.