NEW DELHI: India might have begun their World Cup campaign with a morale-boosting win over Pakistan but former Protea batsman Jonty Rhodes feels that South Africa are a better all-round side and tipped them to win their high-profile clash against the defending champions in Melbourne on Sunday.
Jonty said despite a strong performance by India in their comprehensive win over arch-rivals Pakistan, South Africa’s strong batting, lethal bowling attack and all-round fielding capabilities would give the Proteas the edge.
“Much as I see India putting up an improved performance over the past few months in Australia, fresh from their rejuvenating win against Pakistan, I foresee a South African win with their strong batting, lethal bowling and an all-round fielding side led by mercurial AB de Villiers,” Jonty said.
Talking highly of the South African pace attack comprising Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell and Vernon Philander, Jonty said that India will have quite a task against such a potent bowling on Sunday.
“South African pace attack is similar to that of Australia, and more potent than Pakistan. Having seen the pace, bounce and swing during Australia’s defeat of England a few days ago, I believe that SA pacers will be able to put the Indian batting line-up under pressure, and utilise the new ball with a couple of early wickets. India’s task is really cut out,” 45-year-old Jonty, who rose to prominence with a flying run-out of Inzamam-ul-Haq in a 1992 World Cup league match against Pakistan, said.
India have had a mediocre Australian summer in their 0-2 Test defeat against the hosts and their inability to win a single ODI in the subsequent tri-series. Jonty believes that Proteas will try to exploit the patchy Indian batting.
“So far this summer Down Under, the highly talented Indian batting line-up has yet to fire as a unit, with the odd piece of brilliance from individuals,” Jonty, who represented South Africa in 52 Tests and 245 ODIs in his 11-year-long international career, said.
“The manner of dismissals against Australia this summer showed them to be uncomfortable against hostile fast bowling, with many wickets given away with bad shot selection. This is an area that the SA pacers will try and exploit,” he added.
India though got some relief against Pakistan after Shikhar Dhawan, who scored 73 apart from Suresh Raina’s 74 and Virat Kohli’s 107, found his form at the right time and Jonty said that a good opening start can trouble Steyn and company.
“If the Indian openers can get their team off to a consolidated start, by not allowing Dale Steyn to pick up early wickets, then the rest of the batting will benefit from what is usually a true batting surface,” he said.
“So treat Dale’s spell with the view that if he does not pick up a wicket, then you were successful, regardless of how many runs were scored from his overs. When Steyn does not pick up wickets, then the rest of the SA attack can be vulnerable,” he added.
Jonty, who is the fielding consultant of IPL franchise Mumbai Indians, also had a word of advice for the Indian batsmen.
“Rohit Sharma tried to pull a good-length delivery against Pakistan, and was out to a mistimed shot. Rohit and the other Indian batsmen will have to ensure that they play more with straight bat shots against pace of Steyn, especially on a good length outside off stump, as in the subcontinent, with the low bounce, this is an area where the Indian players pick up a great deal of their runs,” he said.