World Cup 2015, India vs South Africa: Men in Blue ready to take on mighty Proteas
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World Cup 2015, India vs South Africa: Men in Blue ready to take on mighty Proteas

Fan support will boost India against the formidable South Africans, but sustaining momentum will be crucial at the sprawling MCG.

WorldCup2015 Updated: Feb 22, 2015 08:30 IST
Nilankur Das
Nilankur Das
Hindustan Times
India,South Africa,World Cup

Former skipper Anil Kumble will be inducted into the ICC Hall of Fame during the innings break of the India-South Africa match at the hallowed Melbourne Cricket Ground. And what he said on Saturday seemed to echo what the India players might feel when they step into the ground on Sunday afternoon.

On hearing that a full house was expected in the 100,000-capacity stadium, and 80% of those tickets were bought by Indians or people of Indian origin, Kumble said it will feel like receiving the honour at home.

Demographics say around 16% of the Australian population is of Chinese descent and 12.5% is Indian, which means one in every eight Australian citizens is of Indian origin. "That's a gamble but I am confident I will give more joy than sorrow," India vice-captain Virat Kohli said. The support could either inspire or put pressure on India. But what is more likely to go their way is the wicket, which looked a belter.

Slow strip

Skipper AB de Villiers said he had not played on a slower wicket than the one on which South Africa played here the last time. He could be exaggerating a bit but if India see off the first 10 overs on this drop-in pitch, we could have a match on our hands. The onus then might be on the South Africans.

Expectations around India have been rekindled after their resounding victory against Pakistan, the only competitive game Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men have won in the three months they have been here. During this time, India have faced Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins of Australia and Steven Finn and James Anderson of England in the one-dayers and have largely failed.

South Africa have one of the world's best fast bowling attacks with Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel and a slip up can put India back to where it would discount the win over Pakistan. West Indies at the WACA can be a handful as they showed in Christchurch.

Fitness the key

So India will be desperate to win as it can pave the way for smooth sailing in the tournament. But for that Kohli said 'sustained momentum' was crucial. "The momentum throughout the innings is very important in a ground like MCG because it's big. You have to find the gaps and run hard. You have to place the ball more than power it over the boundary," he said. That is where the fitness of our batsmen will come to the fore as tiredness will lead to mistakes. The Met office predicts around 37 degrees Celsius. A full house coupled with very little gaps between stands could make it taxing for the batsmen, especially in the first half.

First Published: Feb 22, 2015 08:00 IST