Melbourne: The mild showers last evening at the Melbourne Cricket Ground failed to dampen the spirit of the handful of fans gathered here on the eve of the India vs South Africa World Cup clash on Sunday.
One of them quickly checked the weather application on his smartphone and assured that there would be no rain on match day. “It will be a hot day tomorrow,” said the fan.
SA skipper AB de Villiers (left) and India vice-captain Virat Kohli during yesterday’s pre-match press conference. Pics/AFP
The heat in both camps came through on Saturday as both, South Africa skipper AB de Villiers and India vice-captain Virat Kohli, spoke of how the friendships on either side count for nothing when the two teams clash here today.
“I’ve played with Dale Steyn for three years at RCB (Indian Premier League team Royal Challengers Bangalore). We’ve been the best of friends and carry that friendship.
“In fact, we hug whenever we meet. But on the field, that counts for nothing because I’m very passionate about my game and similarly, his aggression is what has made him the best bowler in the world for a while,” Kohli said.
De Villiers couldn’t agree more. “Friendships will not play any role in tomorrow’s game. You are playing for your country and both teams are very proud cricketing nations. We want to win this game because we don’t want to leave anything to chance in the rest of the tournament. So, we will go all out tomorrow,” warned De Villiers.
While India held a 5-0 win record of World Cup matches going into last Sunday’s clash against Pakistan, here, it’s the Proteas, who hold the edge over the Indians, having beaten them in all their three previous meetings (1992, 1999 and 2011).
Probably that’s why Kohli felt that a win on Sunday will boost the team’s self-belief. “South Africa are one of the biggest teams in world cricket, so a victory tomorrow will give us the assurance that we can beat the big teams too in the knockout stages later on.”
Kohli felt the idea was to build on an innings at big grounds such as the MCG. “The last game (vs Pakistan) was a learning curve for me on how to change gears in order to counter plans that have been made against you.
“The idea is to keep building on the momentum throughout the innings rather than looking to score a lot of runs in the last 10 overs which is tough.”
Conditions favour India
De Villiers felt the conditions at the MCG suit India better. “It’s a slow track. The last game we played against Australia here (November 21 last year which the hosts won by three wickets) was one of the slowest wickets, so that suits India,” said the wicketkeeper-batsman, not before sounding off a warning: “Dale will be a handful in this tournament.”
India vs SA on Star Sports 1, 3, HD 1, HD 3 & DD National, 09:00