We have to make a strong start to the Champions Trophy by beating India, says AB de Villiers

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De Villiers is confident that South Africa stand a good chance to win the Champions Trophy

South Africa ODI captain AB de Villiers has vowed to put an end to the ‘chokers’ tag his team have been branded with by starting off their Champions Trophy campaign with a win over India, who they play on June 6 and are considered to be one of the favourites to win the tournament this year.

“We are really looking forward to the ICC Champions Trophy in England and Wales,” de Villiers said. “This is another opportunity for us to win that elusive ICC trophy and it will be a great test for our ODI squad looking ahead to the World Cup in two years.”

De Villiers is wary of the competition in Group B, which include South Africa, India, Pakistan and the West Indies, and noted that neither one of these teams should be taken lightly.

“I personally think every opponent in our group is a threat,” de Villiers said. “Our recent 3-2 win over Pakistan only highlighted the threat they (Pakistan) can pose in the limited-overs format, and India and West Indies can both be destructive if they arrive on the day. We are going to have to start strong in our opening match against India at the Cardiff Wales Stadium and hopefully use the momentum for the extra advantage through the group stages.

“Our performances (in ICC events) have not been a true reflection of the talent and skill that we possess, and this year we will be out to change that. We will always have this monkey on our back until we win the competition so hopefully this time around we will be able to overcome the pressure.”

The wicketkeeper-batsman, who has scored 5,542 ODI runs in his career, also singled out players from his side and other international teams who could be potential “game-changers” throughout the tournament.

“The nature of ODI cricket is such that any player can take the game away on the day,” he said. “I think looking specifically at our group, Chris Gayle is one of the major players that stands out, as well as Mahendra Singh Dhoni who is a master-class with the bat.

“I think the one element that has worked in our favour has been our process of focusing on ourselves. We have some big game-changers in Dale Steyn and Hashim Amla, and some exciting youngsters who are brimming with potential. JP Duminy will also make a comeback after a long absence and I’m looking forward to having him back.

“We have some quality cricketers in our current ODI squad. I think if we can collectively take the confidence and momentum we gained during our series win over Pakistan, any player in our squad can win the game for us on the day. We have a balanced makeup of experience and youth in our squad. I think that will be to our advantage in the competition.”

De Villiers once again reiterated that all the teams in South Africa’s group should not be treated as easy opposition, especially given that India won the 2011 International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cup and the West Indies were recently victorious in the 2012 ICC World Twenty20.

“They are all quality cricket sides and they have some key players who can win the game on the day,” he said. “We’ve played India and Pakistan in the past couple of years and both the series went down to the last match. That’s a key indication of the depth and talent of the sides in our group. It’s going to be a challenge that we are definitely up for.”

The 29-year-old also stated that the tournament would give the team ideal preparation for the 2015 ICC World Cup and an indication on whether they could handle the pressure whilst playing against the top ranked teams.

“It’s crucially important; it makes it so much more exciting because of the strength versus strength setup of the competition,” de Villiers said. “It’s a good measuring stick for the competing teams to rate where they are, especially looking ahead to the World Cup in two years.

“I’m looking forward to it, it’s my first 50-over competition as captain and I have a stern belief that this time around we can change our fortunes.”

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