The vibrant Indian vice-captain Virat Kohli has predicted an “exciting” tussle between Indian batsmen and South Africa’s bowlers during Sunday’s pool B World Cup encounter at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

The victory in this match will pave way for the winning team to enter quarter –finals. Kohli said, “Both sides are balanced, so it all depends on how you play on the day”.

It is interesting to note that both teams have won their opening games – defending champions India had  thrashed arch-rival Pakistan by 76 runs in Adelaide last Sunday whereas South Africa defeated Zimbabwe by 62 runs in Hamilton also on Sunday.

Kohli, who had taken charge for skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni at Saturday’s pre-match media conference, opined that the hard pitch with extra bounce at the MCG will be prove to be a big challenge for both the two teams. 

He said, “They have good fast bowlers and we have the batsmen. So it should be an exciting contest between their bowlers and our batsmen. The key will be to sustain the momentum for the whole innings. It is not easy to clear boundaries at a big ground like the MCG, so trying to step it up towards the end won’t be easy. We need a calculated approach to batting.”

It is important to note that the MCG has proved very favorable for Kohli who had scored 169 and 54 during the drawn Test against Australia in December. Also, a match-winning 107 feast in the World Cup opener against Pakistan in Adelaide will remain in the memory of fans for a long time. 

Team India’s key batsman Kohli and the others will have to face the deadly attack of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander, backed by Kyle Abbott and Wayne Parnell. Although Kohli has got a distinct advantage of having played alongside the fearsome Steyn and AB de Villers for the same Royal Challengers Bangalore franchise in the Indian Premier League, he admitted –

“Dale is a good friend, I get the biggest hug from him when we meet. But when we get on the field, he will look to dominate me and I will try to dominate him. There is a good reason why he is one of the best fast bowlers in the game and why AB is a world-class batsmen. We will have plans for every player. But some players have the ability to play the opposite of what we have planned for them.” 

Kohli is seemingly very excited at the prospect of playing in front of an estimated crowd of over 80,000 fans at the MCG. As a big relief for Team India, it is estimated that almost 80 percent of them will be Indian fans.

He exclaimed, “I just love playing in a full stadium. It is very satisfying when one plays well and makes people happy. It is not always that you will succeed, but if you do, others will be delighted. It excites me to be playing here. A win here will give us immense self-belief that we can beat a good side. If we get over this hurdle it will be a huge morale-booster for the tougher games ahead. But I am not one to look too far ahead. It is better to take it one match at a time. We just have to play well as a unit. There is nothing to prove to anyone.” 

But on a personal note, it is a matter of great concern that India have never beaten South Africa in the World Cup. They have in the past, had lost all three times they met in 1992, 1999 and 2011. But then we are known for striking good at the right moment, at the right time and in a thrilling manner. 

    Established sports writer across various global platforms

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