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“At home we cannot afford to be called the underdogs”
South Africa captain AB de Villiers has admitted that it “is a bit unusual” for the Proteas to be under pressure on home soil.
De Villiers’ comments come ahead of the series against India, which gets underway tomorrow.
“We are under pressure, playing in our own country and that is a bit unusual for us,” de Villiers said.
De Villiers also clearly stated that South Africa were not the “underdogs” heading into the series after having lost 2-1 to Pakistan.
“We have just lost a series at home, so the confidence is not very high,” de Villiers said. “Some of the knowledgeable people will say that we are underdogs. But there is no way we will stand back and allow that to happen. There is no chance we will accept that. At home we cannot afford to be called the underdogs.”
The 29-year-old has had a first-hand glimpse of what the Indians are capable of, especially since he has played alongside them in the Indian Premier League (IPL), and he noted that the entire team have to be at their very best throughout the series if they are going to stand a chance of beating the men in blue.
“If we play to our full potential, no one can stop us here, especially in South African conditions,” de Villiers said. “That’s the kind of mindset I want the guys to go in with for tomorrow’s game.
“We need to show the right attitude, good body language. Most of all, we need to remember that we are playing against a sub-continent team that has come to South Africa and they have a very bad record against us here. Even though we just lost a series, we have the confidence and belief to beat the world number one side.”
Speaking about the pitch conditions for the first ODI, de Villiers said: “I have had a look at the wicket and there’s a lot of grass on it. It hasn’t seen a lot of sun yet. But it should play the same over the course of 100 overs. Whether we bat first or second, or bowl first or second, I am not too fussed about that. We are playing the number one team in the world and we will have to play well to beat them.”
While the form of the Indian batsmen is one major concern for de Villiers, his other worry could well be based on the fact that his side haven’t scored over 300 runs in their last 16 ODIs.
“It is because we haven’t played in India for some time now,” he said. “In South Africa, you do not see a lot of scores around 300 and perhaps in this series as well, we might not get to see that. Only occasionally, do we come across a wicket in South Africa where 300 or 300-plus is possible. But as a team we are quite capable of putting up the runs, if we are given that sort of a wicket to bat on.
“India are an all-round good side, but yes, their strength lies mainly in the batting. They have posted some very high scores in the last few matches, and all their batsmen seem to be in good form. But playing at home, our bowlers have the skill to counter that and we plan to get early wickets upfront.”
Ironically, the last time South Africa did cross the 300-run mark was against India during the Champions Trophy in June.
However, de Villiers knows that is not likely to happen again despite the fact that India’s bowlers struggle in foreign conditions.
“There is no doubt that India are certainly not the best bowling attack in the world,” he said. “But there will be assistance for them here and sometimes when you try to get on top of them, they tend to get a lot of wickets.
“So there is no way we will underestimate them. We will be working hard to not give them early wickets and if we don’t lose too many, I believe, we can have a real go towards the end of the innings. That’s an area we will be looking to exploit.”
While de Villiers is leaning towards bowling first if he wins the toss tomorrow, he will have to be careful as South Africa have lost seven of their last eight matches when chasing a target.
“The third ODI against Pakistan was a dead rubber and I thought it will be good for the team, so decided to bowl first,” de Villiers said. “We needed some confidence batting second and see if we can cross the line doing so, for that was something we hadn’t done for a while.”
It is understood that the weather could play spoilsport as there has been the odd thunderstorm in Johannesburg in the past couple of days.
Another major concern for South Africa is the fitness of pace bowler Vernon Philander, who injured his shoulder when falling awkwardly during a training session.
De Villiers finished off by saying that “India are the deserving number one side at the moment”.
“India are the deserving number one side at the moment,” he said. “We want to do well against them in both the ODIs and later in the Tests to follow. Lot of factors go into why we want to do that. Our players know their roles well.”
“We have batsmen who want to bat long and others who are free-flowing batsmen. The balance is there. Hopefully tomorrow there will be an electric crowd at Wanderers and they will help get us across the line.”