Johannesburg – Despite coming up against India, the top ODI cricket side in the world, at the Wanderers on Thursday, South African captain AB de Villiers says his team are by no means underdogs.
The Proteas, ranked fifth in the ODI rankings, are fresh off a 2-1 series loss to Pakistan, while India have two consecutive series victories over Australia and the West Indies.
The Indian batting line-up in particular has been firing on all cylinders, regularly passing the 300 mark in chasing and setting a target.
However, De Villiers said it would be a vastly different scenario when India took on the Proteas in South African conditions.
“Some of the really knowledgeable guys will say we're underdogs, but there is no way we are going to stand back and allow that to happen,” he said on Wednesday.
“There's no chance against anyone in South Africa that we can afford to be called the underdogs. I know if we play anywhere near our full potential, there's no one in the world that can stop us here in our conditions.”
He expected his players to have a confident mindset going into the game.
India have won just five out of 25 ODIs against the Proteas in South Africa, and De Villiers said his team were well aware of their opponents' struggles.
“We need to remember we're playing against a sub-continent team coming here who've had a very bad record here and there's no need for us to stand back.”
While the Indian batting line-up needed to be respected, De Villiers said the Indian bowling unit was not as good.
“They're certainly not the best bowling attack in the world, there's no doubt about it. They've got a decent bowling attack that batters sometimes feel they can get on top of and then they seem to get wickets.
“We won't be underestimating them, but we do feel we can get on top of them if we do the hard yards and have wickets in hand at the end of the innings.”
An area of concern for the Proteas would be the availability of fast bowler Vernon Philander, who hurt his shoulder in training on Tuesday.
“He did have a bit of an accident yesterday, he fell on his shoulder, so there's a bit of a 50/50 call tomorrow when it comes to Vern. Vern is a very skilful bowler, especially when the conditions allow him to show off his skills.
“He's not a huge swing bowler, but he gets it to talk off the deck, so he needs a bit of assistance, especially in the shorter version.”
Meanwhile, Indian captain MS Dhoni would not be drawn into revealing who he thought were the favourites for the clash.
“It's not about favourites, it's all about how you play cricket on that particular day,” Dhoni said.
“We have seen especially in the ODIs you have to get off to a good start with the two balls. It's important how you play the first 10 overs and to have wickets in hand so you can cash in, in those last 10 overs.”
The Proteas' batting line-up struggled in the previous series, but again Dhoni would not say if his side would target any weaknesses in the South African top six.
“What we're working on is our strength, and accordingly we'll try to make the most of what we have,” he said.
“Last time when we came here we had a good opportunity to win the series, but we didn't cash in on that.” – Sapa