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World Cup 2019: Why India may not be favourites against South Africa in their WC opener

ANALYST
Feature
903   //    04 Jun 2019, 17:48 IST

India were not at their best against New Zealand in their warm-up game
India were not at their best against New Zealand in their warm-up game

Many cricketing experts seem to have already written the obituary of South Africa in the 2019 ICC World Cup after their capitulation against perennial underdogs Bangladesh.

But the format of this World Cup is such that even after such a disastrous beginning to a campaign, a team is still in with a fighting chance of making the semis.

It is quite a unique situation that two teams play each other in a tournament with one having finished two matches already (and lost) and the other yet to take the field even once. But that is exactly the situation in this India – South Africa match to be played on 5 June at Southampton.

On the face of it, India may seem like the favourites, possibly the overwhelming favourites, against a South African side low on confidence. But make no mistake, this is a quality South Africa team. Despite losing their pace spearhead Dale Steyn as well as Lungi Ngidi to injury, they possess one of the best bowling lineups in the world.

Kagiso Rabada may not have had the kind of impact he was expected to in the first two matches. However, he remains one of the best pace bowlers in world cricket and will have the talented Andile Phehlukwayo and Chris Morris to assist him.

With proper support from their fielders, they can wreak havoc. Moreover, they also have a wily leg spinner in their ranks, Imran Tahir, who is capable of spinning a web of his own.

Their failures in the first two matches do not take away from the fact that they are a top ODI side. India would do well not to take them lightly. In fact, a South African side reeling from two successive defeats may be a much more dangerous proposition for Team India.

Their will to win and get some points on the board would most likely be greater than that of India, considering the precarious situation they are in.

Almost all of their players are familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of this Indian team, having featured in the Indian Premier League. Moreover, the Indians looked shaky and did not play their best cricket in the warm-up games. Ultimately, come match day, it may actually be advantage South Africa, contrary to popular perception.

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