The Telegraph
Sunday , January 23 , 2011
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Dhoni eyeing a ‘perfect day’ of cricket

Johannesburg: The cabin crew on South African Airways’ flight SA 404 from Port Elizabeth, on Saturday morning, couldn’t have prayed for a more relaxed start to their day. Few, after all, bothered to have breakfast.

Reason being the 737-800 was like a cricket-charter: Packed with the Indian and South African teams, match officials, TV crew and a few from the print media. After a day-night ODI, most dozed off even before the aircraft had reached its cruising altitude.

That’s why, perhaps, the captain chose to offer his “best wishes” after the flight landed and the passengers were awake.

“May cricket be the winner on Sunday,” he said, echoing the sentiment of those following the five-match series, which is 2-2 after South Africa’s win via the D/L Method, at St George’s Park.

The decider is being played in neighbouring Centurion, where the Test series began with a humiliating defeat for India. That was more than a month ago, though.

“Look, it’s tough to come back from a loss, that too after just a day’s break, but the boys will give it their best shot,” coach Gary Kirsten told The Telegraph.

India’s World Cup-opener is in Dhaka, on February 19, but Sunday is going to be Kirsten’s last day as coach on a full-fledged tour.

Another reason, then, for Mahendra Singh Dhoni and the rest to try and put it across Graeme Smith’s team. In any case, never before have India won a series in South Africa.

Dhoni, for his part, is hoping that it’s a “perfect day for cricket.” Smith didn’t stick his neck out either.

It will be a sentimental day for Smith (ticked off by the country’s sports minister for taking sides in the war within) and coach Corrie van Zyl as well.

Smith won’t be seen as captain in an ODI at home any more. As for Van Zyl, who held an informal team meeting at the airport terminal itself, it’s going to be his farewell match at home.

Expectedly, neither team had anything to do with cricket on Saturday. Centurion has been ravaged by floods, but the ground remains unaffected.

What’s baffling is how the Board of Control for Cricket in India agreed to such a strange itinerary — only a day off between a day-night ODI and a day affair!

It should, at least, have been the other way.

There was talk that India’s new-ball attack, which struggled in Port Elizabeth’s blustery conditions, could see a change, but there was no confirmation till late in the evening.

It won’t surprise if the XI which played on Friday is retained.

Match starts: 1.30 pm (IST).

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