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Acid test for captain Kohli as India face SA in do-or-die match

Source: PTI
June 10, 2017 15:28 IST
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If India lose to South Africa, it will see the defending champions make an exit even before the semi-final.

Virat Kohli

IMAGE: India captain Virat Kohli. Photograph courtesy: BCCI/Twitter

Virat Kohli will be facing the toughest battle of his nascent ODI captaincy career when defending champions India take on South Africa in a do-or-die match of the ICC Champions Trophy, in London, on Sunday.


Their confidence shaken after Sri Lanka effortlessly out-batted them in a high-scoring encounter, the Indian team and Kohli in particular will be keen to ensure that South Africa are continued to be known as 'chokers'.

Call it irony, if India lose the game, it will see the defending champions make an exit even before the semi-final. If the Proteas lose, then the current No.1 ranked ODI side would be ousted in the group stages itself.

A defeat will also see the critics blaming the off-field distractions concerning coach Anil Kumble for team's below-par showing.

In such a backdrop, Kohli will be under huge pressure with margin of error being next to nil in what is a virtual quarter-final match.

For AB de Villiers, it will be an opportunity to prove that his self-imposed exile from Test matches has not affected his limited overs skills.

With three quality left-handers -- Quinton de Kock, JP Duminy and David Miller -- in the South African line-up, Kohli can't afford to keep Ravichandran Ashwin in cold storage any more.

Ravichandran Ashwin

IMAGE: India off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin. Photograph: BCCI

More so after knowing what can happen to Ravindra Jadeja when there is absolutely nothing in the strip.

Ashwin atleast has some natural variations, including the off-break which is his stock ball. The proud performer that he is, Ashwin will be smarting after being excluded in the first two games and it can only work positively in India's favour.

However, skipper Kohli's leadership acumen and understanding of the current situation will be under scrutiny depending upon the kind of playing eleven he opts for the next game.

Ashwin's entry into the playing eleven looks logical but he certainly won't replace Jadeja as two spinners are likely to play against the Proteas, who are not known to be comfortable against slow bowlers.

The other big factor is Jadeja's electric fielding inside the circle and the powerful arm from anywhere at the boundary line, which makes him an useful player in this format.

Neither can Hardik Pandya be dropped as his pyrotechnics at No 7 is just what is needed from a batsman used as a floater in the order.

Jasprit Bumrah is another specialist bowler, who is a certainty, with his ability to bowl yorkers consistently in the death overs.

Therefore it could either be Bhuvneshwar Kumar or Umesh Yadav, who may have to make way for Ashwin.

In the second Powerplay overs during the Sri Lanka match, India had conceded over 200 runs, something Ashwin will be asked to check as a marauding AB de Villiers will be itching to score big.

With scores of 319 and 323 in the two games, the Indian batting line-up has looked quite settled and comfortable.

All the top-order batsmen have got a decent hit including the opening duo of  Rohit-Sharma-Shikhar Dhawan, who conjured back-to-back century partnerships.

IMAGE: India's openers Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan. Photograph courtesy: Reuters

While both openers have been in good nick, there's no denying that they have also consumed a lot of balls initially, which finally had an impact during the Lanka game.

With new Powerplay rules, any total of less than 340 can be knocked off with some positive intent in strokeplay.

Kohli is happy with the batting performance but on a practical note, feels that they may need a cushion of extra 20 runs.

"May be you think of phases where we could have accelerated (against Sri Lanka), but I don't see that as a major issue.  Maybe we will have to push harder now in the next few games to give us a 20-run cushion after seeing a result like this, because we are playing on the same ground as well," the skipper had said.

In fact, South Africa batting coach Neil McKenzie also agreed that fluency has been an issue for openers of all the teams.

"It's been a little bit of tough going for the openers. The fluency has been an issue. But one needs to adapt according to situations as the conditions here demand little bit of caution. The wickets need to be kept so that one can attack in the back end," McKenzie said.

On the personal front, Kohli himself would like to lead with the bat against a side that has bowlers like Morne Morkel and all-rounder Chris Morris.

Leg-spinner Imran Tahir might just test Rohit's defence as the Mumbaikar had some trouble reading him during the Indian Premier League recently.

With an interesting main plot and layers of sub-plot, one can brace up for some exhilarating action between two quality sides.

Squads:

India: Virat Kohli (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (w/k), Hardik Pandya, Kedar Jadhav, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Dinesh Karthik, Ajinkya Rahane.

South Africa: AB de Villiers (captain), Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock (w/k), David Miller, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir, Keshav Maharaj, Farhan Behardien, Chris Morris, Wayne Parnell, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwayne Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada.

Match starts 3pm IST.

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