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Under pressure, but not underdogs: De Villiers

Wayne Parnell (from left), AB de Villiers, Lonwabo Tsotsobe and David Miller at the Wanderers, on Wednesday. The first ODI between India and South Africa, on Thursday, will be marked as a Pink Day for breast cancer awareness. (Getty Images)

Johannesburg: South Africa’s ODI captain AB de Villiers conceded the hosts are indeed “under pressure” going into the first of the three-match ODI series against a formidable Indian side led by Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

“We are under pressure, playing in our own country and that is a bit unusual for us,” De Villiers said during the pre-match media conference.

While admitting that losing the ODI series against Pakistan 1-2 has dented their confidence, the South African captain asserted they are certainly not underdogs as being dubbed in some quarters.

“We have just lost a series at home, so the confidence is not very high. Some of the knowledgeable people will say that we are underdogs. But there is no way we will allow that to happen. We will not accept that. At home, we cannot afford to be called the underdogs,” De Villiers said.

The captain expects his team to perform to their potential at home against a team that’s not known to do well in these conditions where there is a lot of pace and bounce on offer.

“If we play to our potential, no one can stop us here, especially in South African conditions. That’s the kind of mindset I want the guys to go in with for Thursday’s game. We need to show the right attitude, good body language.

“Most of all, we need to remember that we are playing against a subcontinent team that has come to South Africa and they have a very bad record against us here. Even though we just lost a series, we have the confidence and belief to beat the world No. 1 side,” he added.

It is definitely a warning for Dhoni and his boys, as they prepare to take on South Africa in the first ODI at the Wanderers. Given this aggressive tone, the pitch rolled will obviously be of much interest, not just in this match but throughout the tour.

“I have had a look at the wicket and there’s a lot of grass on it. It hasn’t seen a lot of sun yet. But it should play the same over the course of 100 overs. Whether we bat first or second, or bowl first or second, I am not too fussed about that. We are playing the number one team in the world and we will have to play well to beat them,” De Villiers said.

Even if the pitch doesn’t change its nature for the duration of the match, given the form of Indian batsmen, it is not unlikely that scores might touch 300. However, we may not see improbable chases as seen against Australia.

Perhaps this is something that concerns South Africa more than India, for they haven’t crossed 300 for the 16 ODIs now.

“It is because we haven’t played in India for some time now,” said De Villiers jokingly.

“In South Africa, you do not see a lot of scores around 300 and perhaps in this series as well, we might not get to see that. Only occasionally, do we come across a wicket in South Africa where 300 or 300-plus is possible. But as a team we are quite capable of putting up the runs, if we are given that sort of a wicket to bat on.”

“India are an all-round good side, but yes, their strength lies mainly in the batting. They have posted some very high scores in the last few matches, and all their batsmen seem to be in good form. But playing at home, our bowlers have the skill to counter that and we plan to get early wickets upfront,” he added.

Meanwhile, coach Russell Domingo, on Wednesday, said the three-ODI series against India will be a tough assignment for his boys.

“Look, we’ve won five of our last eight one-dayers, so we’re heading in the right direction… There is no doubt about it. But we are not taking India lightly… They are a quality side and are coming off outstanding performances.

“The series is going to be a tough assignment for us but we are really looking forward to the series… We need to see where we are going,” Domingo said.India are on a high having beaten Australia and the West Indies in their last two ODI series. (PTI)