India refreshed for World Cup opener vs sore South Africans
SOUTHAMPTON, England (AP) — There’s been practice. There’s been paintball. There’s been a meeting with the Queen.
There hasn’t been one shot in anger, though, from one-day cricket’s No. 2-ranked team.
India’s mandatory period of waiting between series means the two-time champion will be the last team to get its Cricket World Cup underway.
By the time South Africa arrived in Southampton for Wednesday’s game, it had already lost two games at the tournament.
India will be fresher no doubt, ironing out any lingering niggles from the Indian Premier League, but South Africa will be desperate to win at the Rose Bowl.
India skipper Virat Kohli, the premier one-day batsman in international cricket, has kept his almost 30 million Twitter followers up-to-date with a travelogue of pictures from the gym, the game of paintball , and a meeting with the monarchy.
The long wait means he hasn’t needed to face the media since the tournament began last week with England’s comprehensive win over South Africa.
Images of Kohli with his thumb in a cup of ice at practice on the weekend created some headlines at home, but he doused any speculation about a serious injury by batting and fielding.
He’ll go into Wednesday’s match with a couple of innings in unofficial warmups, scoring 18 in a loss to New Zealand and 47 in a win over Bangladesh.
While India’s squad is fresh — because of a court-mandated 15 days of rest for national players between the IPL and any other series — South Africa is struggling with injuries and uncertain of its combination. After entering the tournament with one of the most feared pace bowling attacks, they’re considering whether or not to call for reinforcements.
Lungi Ngidi injured his left hamstring early in the loss against Bangladesh and didn’t bowl again, and veteran pace spearhead Dale Steyn hasn’t yet played in the tournament as he continues his rehabilitation from a shoulder injury.
Opening batsman Hashim Amla was hit on the helmet by England paceman Jofra Archer and retired hurt before returning later in the game to bat. He was left out of the lineup against Bangladesh, but he could be recalled to take on India.
South Africa hasn’t ever had a worse start to a World Cup, but skipper Faf du Plessis hasn’t given up hope. It’s a long tournament, with each of the 10 teams playing each other once before the top four progress to the semifinals.
Du Plessis said “I have to believe” South Africa can bounce back.
“We’re playing a strong team in India in their first game, and our third game, so as a team, we know,” du Plessis said after the upset loss to Bangladesh. “We know we’re not good enough at the moment and we have to turn it around.
“We have no other choice. We won’t be going back and just falling over, I can promise you that.”
Steyn has been bowling in the middle and is under consideration for a return against India, which would be a morale-booster for South Africa.
Despite the toll, du Plessis didn’t blame injuries for the team’s defeats.
“Our skill is not where it needs to be. Every single player in our dressing room is not playing to their full potential, and that’s why we’re not putting the performance on,” he said. “As soon as that starts happening, then those things will change.
“All I can say is that we’ll keep fighting.”