Proteas ‘X-factor’ decimated as well-rested India loom at #CricketWorldCup
Proteas / 5 June 2019, 09:50am / Zaahier Adams in Southampton
SOUTHAMPTON – Down London way there are mass protests on the go targeting US President Donald Trump’s arrival in the United Kingdom yesterday due to his stance on climate change. The protesters maintain it’s a “real thing”.
The cricket landscape at the Hampshire Bowl in Southampton, where South Africa and India are due to meet today, seems to be undergoing its own form of “climate change”. And it’s definitely real.
Traditionally it has been South Africa that puffs out its chest and boasts about its fast-bowling artillery. Lean, fit athletes ready to bounce the crap out of any sub-continent team.
But with Dale Steyn heading home with a long-term shoulder injury, and Lungi Ngidi also ruled out of this contest with a hamstring strain, South Africa are the ones scraping the barrel in search of fast bowling stocks.
Ironically, former Proteas fast bowler Kyle Abbott was at the ground yesterday, but he now wears a Hampshire tracksuit and is ineligible due to his Kolpak status.
Hampshire seamer Kyle Abbott having a chat with his former Proteas teammates. How they would have loved to call him up to replace an injured Dale Steyn against India tomorrow. @IOLsport#CWC19pic.twitter.com/gF3CrmBrzC
South Africa were therefore forced to send an SOS to two-cap left-armer Beuran Hendricks, although he will not arrive here in the seaside city in time to tackle the Indians. This has left Proteas captain Faf du Plessis with a conundrum, escalated by the two defeats at The Oval last week.
“I have said to you guys so many times that our ‘X-factor’ as a team is going to depend on how brilliant our bowling attack is,” Du Plessis said. “There’s only 14 players to pick from now, so there’s not a lot of options in terms of the bowling attack.
“Either you decide if you want to go with all your all-rounders in one team, and have a long batting line-up, and try to change your game plan a little bit and bat up until nine and hopefully you can get a big score, or chase anything because you have a lot of batting, or the two spinners.”
Contrast that with India.
The two-time champions are fresh and relaxed, having not opened their World Cup campaign yet. In fact, they could even fit in a game of paint-ball while the World Cup was underway elsewhere and have thoroughly enjoyed the tranquillity away from the bright lights of London with visits to the nearby mall, where they have frequently been spotted dining at the local Nando's.
A bespectacled Virat Kohli certainly reflected this calm demeanour yesterday, arriving at the pre-match media conference in a golf shirt, shorts and white sneakers. It helps that his 15-man squad is fully fit and loaded with options to suit any conditions.
“Well, firstly, we are very happy that finally we are going to start playing,” Kohli said. “Look, we selected a side that gives us all kinds of options depending upon the conditions we are going to play in. Somewhere you might see three seamers, somewhere two wrist-spinners, somewhere you might see a wrist-spinner and a finger spinner playing together.”
Although spoilt for choice, it is India’s impressive seam department that Kohli will hope makes an early impression on proceedings.
Jasprit Bumrah is the leading ODI bowler in the world, with his unique action and ability to send down toe-crushing yorkers certainly a stern test for Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla up front, while Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami are class acts too.
Everything points to an India win but Du Plessis refuses to throw in the towel just yet.
“It is important that we don’t go take a left turn into negative town. Stay positive, stay strong, make sure we keep pushing,” the skipper stressed.
“Something we have always been good at is when our backs are against the wall, we fight. So hopefully we will see a lot of that tomorrow and hopefully get a good result.”