India captain Virat Kohli fields during the third Test against South Africa. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

DURBAN - There is no place like home, they say, but Durban is as close to being back on home soil for India on their travels. As their team bus snakes its way from Umhlanga to the city every day, they feel the affinity of a city that provides many reminders of home.

“It is always fantastic to see the support, and Durban certainly is a place that makes us feel at home. From the weather, which was a lot like home (on Tuesday), the people, and even the wicket, which looks like something we are used to,” Indian skipper Virat Kohli smiled. “Wherever we go and play around the world, we enjoy big support. But, in Durban, you feel it even more.”

The sold out signs went up very early at Kingsmead, even before the Test series was over. Traditionally, it has been a venue that always had an Indian Boxing Day Test, but the itinerary shifting later into the season meant that Durban had to make do with a one-day international.

“I have only ever played a one-day match at this ground, as I wasn’t part of the T20 World Cup squad that was here,” Kohli said.

“But, I have heard a lot of stories from guys who played then, and they have nothing but good things to say about the city. It is a sell-out, and we obviously like to play in front of big crowds around the world.”

Kohli and his team arrived in Durban in terrific spirits after their win in the third Test against South Africa at the Wanderers over the weekend, and though he said they were not looking too far ahead of themselves, his team was looking forward to the one-day series.

“The mood is very upbeat in the changing-room after the third Test. Our bowlers stood up and really did well for us, but even we as a batting unit are happy with our contribution, and we look forward to the one-day series against a very good South African team,” Kohli added.

India took huge belief from what they achieved against SA in Johannesburg, and Kohli expects his stroke-players to become an even bigger factor in the 50-over format. India have never won a series in SA but, before the Test series, they were expected to be a bigger factor with the white ball, rather than the red.

But, as confident as he may be in private, the Indian captain warned against his side getting ahead of themselves.

“We always go into every match and every series looking to win. But we know that we are playing against a very good South African team, who always play well at home,” he said.

Kohli also had a message for the India Under-19 side, who he met before they left for the junior World Cup in New Zealand.

“They are a great bunch of lads, and they are doing incredibly well,” Kohli beamed.

“I think some of them are making a name for themselves even earlier than some of us did, and they are very confident young men. We look forward to them trying to win the World Cup again, and we will be following the final closely.”

Clearly, the juniors are just as at home in New Zealand as the senior team are in Durban.

The Mercury

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