JOHANNESBURG // India and South Africa do not have a traditional rivalry in the Ashes mould, and this has had one spectacularly good fall out.
Apart from the odd on-field silliness sparked by especially livewire characters, such as when Sreesanth and Andre Nel squared off in the 2006/07 tour, games have been marked by tough cricket and yet a fair amount of goodwill.
While there has been chirp on the field, as is always the case when two competitive sides face each other at the highest level, lines have rarely been crossed. AB de Villiers and MS Dhoni underscored this, when they addressed the media ahead of the three-match ODI series.
“We all have a lot of love and respect for the South African players,” Dhoni said. “Whenever we have played a series against them it has been a tough series, but you will hardly see instances where individuals cross the line. Yes, you will have a picture in mind of the 2006 series, but it was two individuals, and they shared what they had in mind.”
For his part, De Villiers gave the India team the due they deserved.
“It’s a similar team that won the Champions Trophy. They are the deserved No 1 team at the moment,” De Villiers said of India’s ODl outfit.
“All-round good side but their strength lies in their batting. The kind of scores they posted in the last while have been very good. I feel we have the skill to counter that.”
But the chat was not all lovey-dovey. De Villiers was quick to point out that India did have weaknesses that could be exploited.
“They are certainly not the best bowling attack in the world,” De Villiers said. “Sometimes batters think they can get on top of them. It’s an area where we feel we can get on top of them. Try not to lose too many wickets upfront.”
What helps India, however, is that South Africa are perhaps not quite as much on the front foot as in past visits to the country.
“We are under pressure here in our own country,” De Villiers said.
“We just lost a series so confidence is not hugely high. I still have confidence in the guys that we can beat the No 1 team.
“There are a lot of factors that play a part in us wanting to perform well.
“We are playing against the No 1 team here at the Wanderers, it’s as big as it gets.”
@ For more on SOUTH AFRICA CRICKET and INDIA CRICKET visit thenational.ae/topics