India launch challenge against injury-hit South Africa in opener - GulfToday

India launch challenge against injury-hit South Africa in opener


India’s captain Virat Kohli attends a training session with team-mates at the Rose Bowl in Southampton on Monday. Agence France-Presse

India captain Virat Kohli is prepared to vary his World Cup attack by adopting a ‘horses for courses’ strategy that seeks to make the most of the different conditions on offer during the one-day tournament in England and Wales.

India, the world’s number-two ranked team and one of the favourites alongside hosts England and Australia, launch their challenge against an injury-hit South Africa in Southampton on Wednesday, nearly a week after the tournament started.

“Well, firstly, we are very happy that finally we are going to start playing. It’s been a while since we have been here,” Kohli told reporters at Southampton on Tuesday.

“I think it is a bit of an advantage (starting late), I have to say, in terms of understanding how the games have gone, what the conditions have to offer, what the overcast conditions bring into play when the sun is out,” the star batsman added, South Africa will be without star fast bowler Dale Steyn, whose World Cup ended without him bowling a ball after he was ruled out with a shoulder injury, while fellow paceman Lungi Ngidi has yet to recover from a hamstring problem.

By contrast, India’s quicks are fit and ready to fire, having enjoyed previous success in English conditions. Led by Jasprit Bumrah, the world’s number one ODI bowler, the team’s pace attack includes Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Hardik Pandya.

Three specialist spinners in Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal and Ravindra Jadeja lend variety to the bowling attack.

- ‘Flexibility’ - Kohli, in his his first 50-over World Cup as captain, believes rotating his bowling options gives India, the 1983 and 2011 World Cup winners, their best chance of success.

“The flexibility would matter in the bowling set-up is how we foresee things. The batting line-up will have to be consistent,” said Kohli, whose side called off their final pre-match net session because of rain at Hampshire’s headquarters ground.

“I think with match-ups in terms of playing against, if there are more left-handers then the bowling combination can alter a little bit.

“So that sort of message has been given within the team and the guys have accepted it. They understand that they will have to play certain roles at different stages in the tournament.” This World Cup has witnessed contrasting results so far with scores going as high as Pakistan’s 348-8 in their win over England on Monday and the same side crashing to 105 all out in an opening defeat by the West Indies.

Kohli said an ability to adapt with both bat and ball would be important, adding that the World Cup may not be the run-fest forecast by many pundits.

“We can’t say just because a few games have been high-scoring that we need to go out and get 350,” said Kohli.

“We know with our bowling attack any score is defendable with the kind of skill-set that we have and that is the kind of belief we have in our side.” Meanwhile Kohli insisted that a Proteas pace led by Kagiso Rabada remained a potent force, even without Steyn sidelined from the World Cup.

“Look whether Ngidi plays, or Steyn plays or not, Rabada is always going to be a world-class bowler and a threat to any side he plays against,” he said.

Meanwhile, South Africa captain Faf du Plessis said his struggling side could still reach the World Cup semi-finals, even after talisman paceman Dale Steyn was ruled out of the tournament with a shoulder injury.

The 35-year-old fast bowler had been battling to be fit in time for Wednesday’s crucial clash against fancied India in Southampton after two defeats in two matches for South Africa.

But the seamer has been forced to admit defeat, leaving head coach Ottis Gibson’s side short of firepower.

But Du Plessis said despite their injury problems and their poor start to the tournament, South Africa were aiming to reach the last four of the round-robin event, in which all 10 teams play each other.

“Six games is the target, and there’s seven games left,” the skipper told reporters during his pre-match press conference at the Ageas Bowl.

“It would be great if we could start that tomorrow. There’s no easy games any more in the World Cup.... Whether it’s winning or losing, the main thing is getting to the semi-finals.”

Agence France-Presse

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