Like in Adelaide against Pakistan, India can expect an overwhelming support come Sunday at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Be it hotel lobbies, breakfast tables or practice sessions, team India have not been lacking any attention or support in Melbourne. One can expect the ‘G’ to roar when the eleven men donning blue walk on the field to take on South Africa.
With a win against Pakistan and a few intense practice sessions India look geared up to take on the Proteas. For Virat Kohli, centurion against Pakistan, the victory at Adelaide has lifted the confidence of the side and a win against their opponents tomorrow will hold them in good stead for the rest of the tournament.
“If we beat them tomorrow, it will give us immense self belief that we can beat big sides come the knock-out stages,” Kohli said. “South Africa has been one of the top sides in the world and they have a good balance in batting and bowling and their fielding has raised standards in international cricket. To get over that hurdle tomorrow will be immense self belief booster in many ways.
“We realise it is important to hold momentum in a tournament like the World Cup. We have started off on a good note and it is something that we are looking to build over the next few games.”
When asked if the match against South Africa would be a true reflection of India’s strength, Kohli said, “For us every game is apparently a test. Even against weaker sides, we always talk about what if they upset us. I'm not really thinking about all that. I always maintain that you play a game of cricket with bat in hand and ball in hand, and that's all there is to it. It's how you feel mentally on that particular day. We want to play well as a unit, and that's what we're looking to do in this World Cup.”
Team aside, Kohli himself has started off on a good note. After all, he is coming off a century against Pakistan where he walked out to bat at No.3. There have been times in the ODI series prior to the World Cup when Kohli has batted at No.4, but the batsman insisted batting positions didn’t change the nature of his game and it was a part of trying to find the best possible combination before the World Cup.
“I've played enough number of games to try and experiment the batting position for the team. We were trying to figure out the best combination for the team. We figured out that it's best for me to bat at No.3, which I've done over the last few years. We have got success because either I or one of the top three batsmen has been able to bat through.
“Unless you try, you would never know if you're right or wrong. You have to make mistakes, you have to learn from them, and that was one situation where we wanted to try things out, and we couldn't have done it at any time apart from the tri Series,” Virat said.
Run-scoring also depends a lot on ground dimensions and taking the ones and twos holds importance, according to Kohli. “I think in Melbourne we have seen that sustained momentum throughout the innings has probably been the successful way. Teams that have tried to slog it out in the last 10 usually don't end up pulling off that many runs, especially teams that are not familiar to these conditions. There is more bounce, the boundaries are bigger and so it's not that easy to clear boundaries on a regular basis. I think sustained momentum throughout the innings is very important. You have to hit angles, play in the gaps, run hard and place the ball more than power the ball over the boundary. There will be a calculated approach towards our batting and we will have to make some changes according to how big the field is.”
With a high intensity game on offer, there are a lot of personal battles everyone is looking forward to, the big one being Virat Kohli facing Dale Steyn – two characters who have shared a great camaraderie off the field. “I have played with Dale Steyn when he was with RCB for three years and we have been good friends since then,” Kohli said about his friendship with Steyn.
“Whenever I meet him he gives me the biggest hug. Even before a game, we have always been friendly. We know on the field, come game time I will be looking to dominate him and he will be looking to dominate me which is a mutual respect kind of a thing.
“Whatever said and done at that point of time it has been taken in good sportsman spirit because we know after the game we will be best buddies again. I have shared a great friendship with a lot of South African players over the years and Dale has to be one of the more special ones.
“He is a completely different person on the field which is absolutely fine. He is very aggressive and passionate about playing for his country.
There is a good reason why he is the best bowler in the world for a while now and he is so consistent because he has that mentality.
“Off the field he is a completely different person; he jokes around, laughs all the time and you wouldn’t know about him unless you know him. It is similar to how we both are on and off the field and that’s why we get along really well together.”