Johannesburg – AB de Villiers’ South African side may be several shades of inconsistency at the moment, but that doesn’t mean their approach against India for the upcoming One-Day series will be meek and mild.
Instead, as the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers American Football team, Mike Tomlin, once said; “We will not go quietly; we will raise hell in December,” – De Villiers is calling on his side to attack the star-studded Indian batting line-up.
The Indians arrive in the country on Monday morning, no doubt with plenty of swagger given their record of 22 wins from 31 ODIs matches this year.
Most of their victories are based on an imposing batting line-up that contains the top three run-scorers in ODIs this year, and a captain known for his calm innovative style of leadership, as well as an explosive ability to turn matches in his side’s favour with an eccentric, brutal innings.
For all of South Africa’s experimenting and rotating in the last few years in both limited overs formats, this, unfortunately short series with the No1 ODI side in the world, will determine exactly where they stand as they continue to build towards the next 50-over World Cup in Australasia at the start of 2015.
De Villiers is fully aware of India’s strength, but reckons the best way to counter that strength is to be offensive. “(Their strength) is their ability to score quickly,” the South African captain explained, “we have to attack them with the new ball, get them two or three wickets down upfront and build pressure on their middle order.”
In theory that sounds fine, however, in practice, once they’ve gotten through Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli at the top of the order, there’s a middle order of Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh and the Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni to deal with.
De Villiers believes he has the bowlers to put India under pressure, and his confidence is justified.
The South African attack is a strong one, fronted by the world’s best fast bowler and backed by a high-quality set of seamers, including an all-rounder who is the highest wicket-taking seam bowler in ODIs this year.
So, while India have a talented batting line-up, they haven’t faced as strong and diverse an attack as South Africa’s all year either.
“There are a few things to consider: in India where they’ve played most of their games, the grounds are small so boundaries are easier to hit, and the new ball isn’t as influential as it will be here. We have to look after the new ball better than we would in India.
“Our bowling unit is also an experienced one, even when Dale (Steyn) isn’t there guys like Ryan McLaren, Vernon (Philander) and Wayne Parnell, are all familiar with conditions in South Africa, they’ve played a lot of domestic cricket and that experience is valuable.”
South Africa’s problems are of course with the bat and especially when they are required to chase a target as was the case in all three matches against Pakistan – a series which ended 2-1 in favour of the tourists.
De Villiers admitted that even in Saturday’s winning effort in Centurion, his side “didn’t chase as well as we wanted to”, putting forward a lack of “care for our partnerships” as the main reason.
There is no doubt that South Africa’s batsmen lack composure and are especially prone to panic when chasing particularly when they face spin.
Even though Saturday’s target was a modest one, they still found themselves in a hole at 87/4, and Dhoni and the rest of the Indian team’s strategists would have noted that weakness.
“Against spin, run rates invariably slow down, it’s not just us, but what we have to do is be better at absorbing pressure, which is something we didn’t do well on Saturday,” De Villiers remarked.