Virat Kohli has pledged to treat Kagiso Rabada with respect after the South African bowler branded him “immature”.
India launch their World Cup bid by facing beleaguered South Africa in Southampton on Wednesday, with Rabada’s combative words ringing in opposition captain Kohli’s ears.
Rabada criticised Kohli as childish in a recent Indian Premier League on-field spat – but India’s talisman captain refused to bite back, instead pledging to discuss the matter with the Proteas paceman personally.
Kohli’s move to treat Rabada’s aggression with kindness entirely deflated any tactic to unsettle the superstar batsman, with the 30-year-old India skipper unflappable ahead of Wednesday’s tournament bow.
“Well I’ve played against Kagiso many times, and if anything needs to be discussed we can discuss it man to man,” said Kohli.
“Whether Ngidi plays or Steyn plays or not, Rabada is always going to be a world-class bowler and a threat to any side he plays against. On his day he can go through any team.
“In the past we have been able to handle it, but that’s only because we’ve been respectful of his skills but also assured of our batting.
“You have to be respectful but have that self-belief in yourself as well. And that balance will be very crucial. We always need to respect that and find ways of scoring against him.”
India will doubtless be eyeing the title despite England entering the tournament as favourites.
Kohli admitted India could stand to benefit from their delayed start to the competition, as they watched and learned from the opening tranche of matches.
He insisted India will be in no mood to chase the game, instead backing the strength of their line-up.
“There’s a lot to learn in terms of composure,” said Kohli. The teams that have been more composed have been winning games. The teams that have been forcing it or making bad decisions have suffered.
“That’s the kind of pressure the World Cup brings. As a batting group it will be very important to understand which guy is on a roll and the other guy has to play second fiddle.
“You need to be able to rotate strike and play in a partnership. If you try to accelerate too much teams are losing four or five wickets in a bunch.
“The teams that play more solid, percentage cricket will tend to succeed.”
India’s skipper remained composed and assured as he insisted he can shoulder the burden of expectation to blast big scores every time he walks to the crease.
“If you perform for a long time then expectation is always there,” said Kohli.
“I’ve understood how to go along with the expectation. You have to accept the expectation is going to be there.
“When you walk down to bat people are going to say ‘We need a hundred’ and things like that.
“Accepting that is just part of the process for me now. It’s a long tournament, you’re playing every side once. You have to think on your feet and adapt quickly.
“You have to be precise, think on your feet, make good decisions and stay ahead of the eight ball. From that point of view, it’s a big challenge.”
Provided by Press Association Sports
Faf Du Plessis believes South Africa can still make the World Cup semi-finals, even with talisman paceman Dale Steyn ruled out of the tournament.
South Africa insisted veteran seam bowler Steyn has suffered a new shoulder injury since arriving in the UK, allowing the Proteas to replace him with Beuran Hendricks.
The Proteas must face India in Southampton on Wednesday with Steyn and Lungi Ngidi both missing, and that after Anrich Nortje was ruled out before the tournament.
South Africa have already lost to both England and Bangladesh – have never suffered three opening World Cup defeats and would face a mountain to climb to reach the last four with a loss to India – but captain Du Plessis is fighting to stay confident.
Asked if Wednesday’s India clash is make or break for the Proteas’ World Cup chances, Du Plessis replied: “Six games is the target, and there’s seven games left.
“It would be great if we could start that tomorrow. There’s no easy games anymore in the World Cup.
“Bangladesh played unbelievable cricket, and Afghanistan look like they are turning over Sri Lanka, so six games is still the overall goal.
“Whether it’s winning or losing, the main thing is getting to the semi-finals.
“It’s purely just our skills that need to be upgraded. If we can deliver our skills then we will be in good positions. But so far we haven’t been there.
“Hopefully it’s a case of us just getting better every game. And if we do, hopefully we’ll start playing better cricket.”
South Africa’s medical chief Dr Mohammed Moosajee confirmed Steyn’s injury as a new shoulder complaint, with the Proteas veteran having shaken off his previous shoulder issue only to suffer a new complication.
Hendricks will arrive on Wednesday but will not be available to face India.
Hoping Steyn’s international career is not at an end, Du Plessis said: “It’s important for us to be strong for Dale.
“It’s been a tough two-and-half years for him, and he would need support right now.
“The team and management will put things in place to look after him. He needs love at the moment, he tried really hard to get fit for this campaign.
“He was bowling unbelievably well in the build-up to the tournament.
“We’ve just got to be there for him. I know he wanted to make an impact in what would have been his last World Cup.”
South Africa’s 104-run loss to hosts and tournament favourites England might have been expected, but the Proteas were stunned by Sunday’s 21-run defeat by Bangladesh.
Du Plessis admitted South Africa’s injury-ravaged bowling attack means he must draw up an entirely new plan of attack – that may revolve around trying to bat as deep as possible.
“I think we’ll really have to look at that now, there’s only 14 players to pick from now. There’s not a lot of options for the bowling attack.
“You have to decide whether you go with all your all-rounders in your team, bat deep and try to get a big score.
“Or you go with two spinners, but I don’t think spin has played that big a role here. So those are the two options we are weighing up. There aren’t many other options.”
Provided by Press Association Sports
Despite having a miserable time in the recent Indian Premier League (IPL) for KKR, India spinner Kuldeep Yadav is looking forward to making a big impact in his maiden World Cup campaign.
The left-armed wrist-spinner has several expensive outings for Kolkata Knight Riders before being dropped from the playing XI for the latter stages of the IPL. His drop in form will be a concern for India given how important he is to the team’s plans for the World Cup but Kuldeep is not worried.
“You can say that (IPL 2019 being the toughest phase of his career),” Kuldeep told ESPNcricinfo in an interview.
“In the two years I have been playing, everything was working nicely. But I now want to look forward to the World Cup.
“I could have been a bit more strong mentally. I could have increased my focus a bit. I lacked the focus and the planning – that was my big learning.”
While his IPL form has been a big talking point of late, Kuldeep has continued to receive support from India skipper Virat Kohli ever since he made his international debut two years ago.
The young spinner has credited the captain’s confidence in him as a big reason for his strong showings so far at the international level.
“It is a very big thing when your captain believes in you. Virat has always had belief in (Yuzvendra) Chahal and me,” Kuldeep said.
“He believes both of us can take wickets at any time in a match, that we can change the game at any time. Even if we have a bad match or if we go for runs, he does not say anything. He trusts us, gives us the freedom to bowl the way we want to.
“He just says: I want wickets. He tells us that even if we go for five or ten runs extra, it’s not an issue as long as we are getting wickets. When he believes that you are one of his main players, it is a good sign that your captain is supporting you.”
Kuldeep will now hope to put his IPL disappointments behind him when India open their 2019 World Cup campaign against South Africa at Southampton on Wednesday.