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Big-game hunting: Power struggle starts

India square off against South Africa with group's top spot on their mind. Atreyo Mukhopadhyay reports. Teams | India vs South Africa for the record | Face-off: Watch out for these battles

india Updated: Mar 12, 2011 01:51 IST
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay

The afternoons are getting warmer and the conditions tougher for cricketers. In sync with the change in climate, the nature of the task too is getting demanding for the Indians. With two rounds to go before the knockout stage, they will get a taste of the competition they can expect once the shootout begins, when they face South Africa on Saturday.

Qualification for the quarterfinals is not at stake for Mahendra Singh Dhoni's team, but who they meet in that game is. A win here will take them closer to sealing the top spot in Group 'B', thereby brightening their chances of drawing the relatively weak fourth-placed team from Group 'A'.

The Indians were aware of the seriousness of the challenge. They came for practice in the afternoon and spent two-and-a-half hours batting, bowling and fielding.

Although Yuvraj Singh didn't take part in the activities, it was learnt that he was fine. The rest looked eager to make most of the hours spent sweating under the sun.

Going with the momemtum
Dhoni sounded keen to use this game and the one against the West Indies to brace up for the battles beyond the league phase. "Playing against good sides, you want to get momentum. The intensity will go up and you have to go on improving," he said on Friday.

Elaborating on how the team had improved after four games, the skipper said, "If you see our performance on the field, the intensity has picked up, which is the key. Intensity is often mistaken for going up to the batsman and saying things to him, but it's not about that. It's about the body language, the effort you are putting in and how you are helping each other."

Smith's men, a wounded lot
Dhoni would be expecting a tough match because South Africa will come out hard to revive their chances of making the quarterfinals, after losing to England on Sunday. Ability and pace make Graeme Smith's wounded lot a dangerous opposition and the batsmen too would be looking forward to enjoying themselves on the flat and hard surface at the VCA Stadium.

It gives India a golden chance to test some vital cogs which need this kind of competition to understand where they stand.

The batsmen can expect some hostile stuff from Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, who could prove a handful on a pitch which has encouraged the quicks with the carry it offered in the previous ODIs.

The India medium-pacers will be up against a formidable batting line-up. They are a bit low on morale, having not taken too many wickets against weaker teams, and success against South Africa will help them get back the confidence. The same applies to the specialist spinners, who are also short on wickets.

With both teams having a lot to play for, the mercury is set to rise on Saturday.
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