ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / News
India v South Africa, World Cup 2011, Group B, Nagpur
Amla insists India are under pressure
Firdose Moonda in Nagpur
March 10, 2011
Hashim Amla, South Africa's opening batsman, said that the pressure is on India ahead of their marquee clash with South Africa in Nagpur on Saturday. "Being at home comes with a lot of expectation," he said. "I don't think the pressure is on us as much as it is on India."
South Africa and India's match is one of the most eagerly anticipated of the group stage, the juicy steak everyone has been looking forward to after three weeks of appetisers and the occasional chicken dish, still a main, but not the red-meat one. England have served up most of the white-meat, advertising fifty-over cricket with three delicious roasts so far, one where they got burnt by Ireland, one where they returned the favour to South Africa, and that tie with India - cooked just right.
Now it's time to sample one of the dishes that is considered a speciality in this tournament, two of the favourites, blended in one stadium. The teams have been on this menu before, little more than a month ago, when South Africa beat India 3-2 in a closely fought ODI series in South Africa. The ingredients were completely different, with pitches that favoured the local seamers being the biggest change. "We do take confidence from knowing that we've beaten India on our home ground but we are not naïve to think this will be the same," Amla said.
Nagpur's kitchen caters to other tastes entirely, with a pancake of a track that promises runs that will drip like an overflowing pot of honey. South Africa have sipped from those fountains before. Dale Steyn helped himself to 7 for 51 in the Test match and Amla scored his career-best 253 not out in February last year. "The last time I was here I had a good time," Amla said, holding himself back from licking his fingers or lips, which is what he may have needed to do given the aftertaste this venue must have left in this mouth. "We know the scores are generally quite high here, if I can score the same amount of runs I will be very happy."
The same amount may be too much to ask in a quick meal like a one-day international, but the substance of what Amla is saying is there. He hopes to spend as much time at the crease as possible, in keeping with South Africa's philosophy that at least one of their top six chefs must remain in the kitchen to marshal the rest. "You hope somebody in the top six bats a long time so others can bat around him. It is a considered effort. We want the batsmen to score the runs rather than have the tail-enders have to bat."
With the batsmen the ones that are being promised the best of the meal on offer in Nagpur, it leaves little to whet the appetite of the bowlers. India's attack has come under fierce criticism for being undercooked but Amla predicts that they will still bring their fair share of spice for the South Africans to deal with. "We rate their bowlers," he said. "Even though we won 3-2 they bowled very well in that series at home."
Although Amla referenced it himself, the snacks shared between India and South Africa a few weeks ago are still thought to have little bearing on this match. Even the way Yusuf Pathan proved himself, with a commanding innings in Centurion against short pitched bowling, is not something South Africa have pondered to any great detail. "We're not placing too much importance on individuals," Amla said, while explaining that South Africa is enjoying every meal to the fullest, tasting each dish before going on to the next.
They still know that on Saturday, the VCA will be a pressure cooker but Amla thinks that South Africa are not the ones who need to be worried about getting cooked to pulp. "We've played in front of big crowd before, it may take five or six overs to get used to the noise factor but it will be a lovely atmosphere." The dessert, for many, will be if these two meet in the final in three weeks time. It may make all the finger food in between worth it, particularly if they dish out a tasty course this time around.