Sunday, Sep 21, 2014

Form faces reality check as India lock horns with South Africa at Bullring

Written by Bharat Sundaresan | Johannesburg | Posted: December 5, 2013 3:48 am

From a distance you might have wondered whether they were players from the same team going through the grind in the nets. Dale Steyn had the customary green helmet and pads on. While on the other side,JP Duminy looked slightly less conservative with his pink pads. In between Steyn and Duminy though,Ryan McLaren had gone for the whole hog,a pink helmet and pads of the same shade.

Incidentally,the lanky all-rounder was the only one fulfilling the brief on the eve of ‘Pink Day’ — to promote breast cancer awareness — at the Wanderers on Wednesday morning. The colour depicts universal love but has largely not made a noteworthy presence on the cricket field,except when the West Indians were forced into them during the Packer World Series or when Middlesex who donned it briefly as their T20 colours.

But Thursday will witness AB De Villiers and his team walking out in fully pink apparel for the second time this year in an ODI. And the colossal Wanderers itself was a sea of pink-with everything from hoardings to banners showing it off — as it was being set to host the first of three ODIs between the hosts and India. Despite the range of colours on view in the nets,the three South Africans,just like those who had occupied them earlier,seemed collectively intent on showing no mercy to the net bowlers.

The white ball was sent flying into orbit repeatedly,especially by Duminy. The side pole of the net and the solitary stump near the bowling mark didn’t receive much love either from Steyn as he smashed both with his bat after a seemingly unsatisfactory stint with the bat – probably a warning for the Indian batsmen come Thursday.

Their generally affable skipper was in all-guns-blazing form too in front of the mike soon after as he addressed the media — the backdrop behind him again pink in colour.

AB de Villiers was reminded of South Africa going into the one-dayers as underdogs — despite them having lost only five out of 25 ODIs against the world champions in their backyard.

“There is no chance that we can afford to be called underdogs against anyone in South Africa. We cannot stand back and allow that to happen,” said De Villiers,his eyes conveying the intensity of the statement.

UNDERDOG TAG

The underdog might have a lot to do with the recent series loss to Pakistan and India’s dominant run in 2013 where they’ve won close to 80 per cent of their ODIs,including the Champions Trophy in England. But South Africa has been a bugbear for many generations of Indian batsmen. De Villiers said that he was keen to remind his team about that.

“We need to remember we’re playing against a sub-continent team,who’ve had a very bad record here and there’s no need for us to stand back,” he said,making no bones.

And there’s ample evidence in the numbers of the batsmen in the present squad on South African soil to back De Villiers’ sentiments.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni himself averages only continued…

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