India will look to add to South Africa's agony when they face beleaguered Faf du Plessis' men in their first World Cup encounter at the Ageas Bowl, here on Wednesday. The Proteas are hurting after two defeats against England and Bangladesh, while India are fresh and raring to go, and that only makes them more dangerous.
India, after their second warm-up match against Bangladesh, had more than a week's time to tune off and get themselves prepared for their first World Cup match.
It will be interesting to see whether Virat Kohli will go in with both the spinners -- Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal -- or will go in with an extra pacer in the form of Bhuvaneshwar Kumar to strengthen their pace attack -- led by Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammad Shami.
However, given the inability of the South African batsmen to play against spinners, Kohli might be tempted to play 'Kul-cha'. Both Chahal and Kuldeep were extremely successful against the Proteas batsmen in the ODI series in South Africa last year which India had won. Kuldeep had scalped 17 wickets from six games while Chahal had one less from equal number of matches.
Another dilemma which Kohli would be having is whom to play -- Kedar Jadhav or Vijay Shankar. While Jadhav provides him with those four-five overs of spin in the middle, Shankar can prove to be handy in the overcast conditions. Also, Jadhav's batting and power-hitting ability makes him a much valuable player as compared to the Tamil Nadu all-rounder.
The Indian top-order failed to perform in both their warm-up games and that can be a cause of concern for the team management. Both Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan didn't manage to score runs against New Zealand and Bangladesh. However, Kohli doesn't see that as a major issue and feels that his star openers are big-match players who will perform in the tournament proper. However, the big plus for the No. 2 ranked ODI side is the form of K.L. Rahul and M.S. Dhoni who scored hundreds against Bangladesh.
On the other hand, Proteas did not have a great start to their World Cup campaign. They conceded totals in excess of 300 against both England and Bangladesh. The bowling seems to lack the killer instinct and the absence of young pacer Lungi Ngidi for the crucial game only adds to their worries. Also, Dale Steyn is recovering from the shoulder injury and it is still not sure whether he will be returning back to the playing XI.
When it comes to their batting, Proteas batsmen fell well short against England and, despite a much-improved performance against Bangladesh, didn't manage to take the team home. Against the quality of India's attack, the Proteas batsmen will have to come out with their A-game to pose a challenge to the Men in Blue.
However, it would still not be easy for India to go past South Africa considering their record in World Cups. In the four World Cup games these two teams have played, India have won just one and lost three. And even in overall ODIs, South Africa hold a 46-34 edge.
India: Virat Kohli (c), Jasprit Bumrah, Yuzvendra Chahal, Shikhar Dhawan, MS Dhoni (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Kedar Jadhav, Dinesh Karthik, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Hardik Pandya, K.L. Rahul, Mohammed Shami, Vijay Shankar, Rohit Sharma, Kuldeep Yadav
South Africa: Faf du Plessis (c), Aiden Markram, Quinton de Kock (wk), Hashim Amla, Rassie van der Dussen, David Miller, Chris Morris, Andile Phehlukwayo, JP Duminy, Dwaine Pretorius, Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Imran Tahir, Tabraiz Shamsi - IANS