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India vs South Africa: Teams downplay nerves for ICC Champions Trophy clash

India and South Africa go into Sunday’s ICC Champions Trophy clash needing a win to make the semifinals. Both teams have suffered shock defeats recently but will look to come good when it matters the most.

cricket Updated: Jun 10, 2017 23:32 IST
Soumitra Bose
Virat Kohli will be looking to lead from the front and inspire India to a victory in their must-win ICC Champions Trophy game versus South Africa.
Virat Kohli will be looking to lead from the front and inspire India to a victory in their must-win ICC Champions Trophy game versus South Africa. (AP)

London: Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers preached Art of Living lessons in their pre-match press conferences in London on Saturday as one of India or South Africa will be eliminated from the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 at the group stage on the morrow.

Kohli felt composure will be the key in Sunday’s blockbuster at The Oval while de Villiers said the last 12 months have seen South Africa winning several crunch games that made them the No. 1 ODI team in the world.

Both India and South Africa have faced shock defeats in this Champions Trophy, adding much spice to a group where many had written obituaries of Pakistan and Sri Lanka even before the tournament had started.

Although Kohli didn’t admit, India are seemingly grappling with a few injury worries.

READ | India vs South Africa: AB De Villiers’ team’s strengths & weaknesses

Rohit Sharma did not come in to bat at the nets till the very end while Umesh Yadav bowled with a heavily strapped left knee. With his left knee cap taped, Mohammed Shami’s availability is also under a cloud.

Rohit Sharma has been in good form in the Champions Trophy and his absence could hurt India. He scored 91 against Pakistan in the first match and followed up with a 78 in the high-scoring fixture against Sri Lanka. India will wait on Sharma until Sunday morning before modifying their playing XI.

Changes are definite. Kedar Jadhav will probably make way for Dinesh Karthik, who had a long stint at the nets alongside Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni. Ravichandran Ashwin should make the cut at the expense of a quick bowler.

READ | ICC Champions Trophy: Nothing special about South Africa game - Virat Kohli

Given Kohli’s leading-from-the-front nature, the skipper may be tempted to open the innings alongside the pugnacious Shikhar Dhawan, who will need someone to take the pressure off him and rotate the strike.

Kohli --- 161 runs at an average of 26-plus in six games --- has not been successful as an opening batsman in ODIs but the fact that he “craves” for such big games to challenge himself as a player could see him facing the new ball. He last opened against New Zealand in Hamilton in 2014, scoring just 2.

Head coach Anil Kumble, who is likely to stay on till at least the end of the ODI series in the West Indies in June-July, was the first to walk up to the Oval square when the Indian team arrived an hour late for practice Saturday morning.

READ | ICC Champions Trophy: Pressure on India in game vs South Africa, says Graeme Smith

The greenish tinge on the central wicket was a clear indication that that the pitch will afford bounce and carry to the quicks. Kohli batted the longest at the nets along with Dhawan and Hardik Pandya. The skipper took turns in three nets, spending a lot of time trying to hone his pull shot.

South Africa trained after lunch. Unlike the Indians, they looked more like a team. A huddle, a quick chat from de Villiers and a lot of fielding drills dominated their session. The Indians had fielding last on their day’s menu.

Sunday’s match will see a sellout crowd. The weather forecast is also good -- sunny and cloudy. It remains to be seen which team comes out smiling in this day game. Should India win, they play their semifinal in Birmingham.

READ | India vs South Africa: Virat Kohli wants Yuvraj Singh to get a big one

India training delayed

India’s training was delayed by an hour after a road near the team hotel in central London was blocked following an accident. The team is staying at a five-star hotel on High Street in the upmarket Kensington Area. They were scheduled to arrive for practice at the Oval at 10 am but reached an hour later.

“There was an accident a few metres from where our bus was stopped. We saw a badly damaged car at the site. The security officials advised us to return to the hotel. That route was the shortest to the stadium,” a team source told PTI. The team took a detour.