Not among the most renowned players of spin but South African captain A B de Villiers today said his side is not too worried about the problems that Indian off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin could pose during their second group encounter in the ICC Cricket World Cup here tomorrow.
“Ashwin is a wonderful bowler. They’ve got some other match winners, as well. We’ve played spin really well over the last five years. In fact, it’s definitely not a weakness of our team,” De Villiers made it clear at the media conference on the eve of match here today.
“I am not saying that Ashwin can’t win them a game tomorrow as we know what all he’s capable of. We have got respect for him and his abilities as a bowler. But it’s not in the area we’re worried about
“We’re just going to go play out there. We know that their spinners are dangerous players. They can all turn the game around for India. It’s a matter of just really applying yourself out there, getting used to the conditions, and then when you get yourself and you get a bit of momentum behind you, then to make it count,” he explained.
De Villiers made it clear that his strike bowler Dale Steyn will prove to be a handful in the tournament unlike IPL, where the South African skipper himself, playing for RCB has punished the speedster, donning the Hyderabad jersey.
“Look, it’s a different format of the game, and it’s completely different conditions, very small fields in India, slow wickets. It’s completely opposite to what you can expect in India. It is quicker wickets over here, bigger fields. He (Steyn) will be a handful in this tournament,” he said.
For De Villiers, it’s a non-issue as to whether India will be charged up as they are meeting them on the back of a convincing win against Pakistan.
“I’m not too worried about other teams’ results, even though we are part of the whole tournament, and it does influence us. I’ve encouraged the guys not to take part in too much of the other cricket going on. We know India are still the world champions. We know they are an incredible cricket team, so the respect factor is definitely still there, and the respect for us towards them as a cricket team is definitely there.
“Whether they have won or lost, it would not have changed a lot in our planning and preparation going into this game. We know they’re a very dangerous side, and we’re going to play accordingly and hopefully come out on top tomorrow,” the Proteas skipper said.
De Villiers did show his funny side when asked whether the perception that MCG’s wicket will aid fast bowlers and Indian batsmen might not be comfortable playing them.
“It’s actually played exactly the opposite of all the games I’ve played here in the past,” he said with a smile.
De Villiers then said he expects this wicket to be a low and slow one.
“I’ve never played at the MCG with a lot of pace and bounce. It’s always been quite slow, which doesn’t suit us that well, but definitely that perception that you talk about is certainly wrong.
“The last game we played here against Australia was one of the slowest wickets I’ve ever batted on. At night maybe it skids on a little bit more, which will bring us in attack a little bit more into the game, but also you get value for your shots a little bit more,” he said.
“It’s a lot to think about, but it’s certainly not a quick wicket, so we’ll really have to just adapt as quickly as possible, assess the conditions and try and get the momentum on our side.”
Asked about what Mike Hussey has brought to the table, De Villiers was full of praise for the former Australian batsman’s inputs.
“He’s a really wonderful human being, and that’s probably the main reason, why he’s fitted in so well. He just wants the best for us, wants to have an impact on the batsmen and all the players. But one of our biggest values as a cricket team is just being humble. That’s what we strive for and he is one of those guys, so he’s fitting in very nicely.”
De Villiers said Hussey has given some nice inputs on conditions and confirm some of their homework.
“He’s given us advice. Everything we covered the last few days when it comes to the analysis of the conditions, what to expect, what not to expect, we covered pretty much all of that, and he was just there to give us some confirmation that we are on the right track.
“He let us know when we were talking nonsense, as well. It’s just nice to have him around, a guy with great experience, a guy that’s won a World Cup before. He’s a great finisher. He’s handled pressure situations really well and that’s the kind of people that we like to have in our squad,” he said.
De Villiers maintained that despite Indian batsmen’s mastery over spin, Imran Tahir is his first choice spinner.
“Yeah, Immy (Tahir’s nickname), he’s been one of our best bowlers over the last two years. There’s no way that, unless there’s some funny injury over the next 24 hours, he’s not going to play. I see him as a match-winner against any team in the world.
“It’s a matter of bowling him at the right times, and that’s my job, to make sure he bowls at the right times in order to give him the best opportunity to win us games, and that’s what he’s best at doing. I can’t see him not playing tomorrow.”
De Villiers was also excited about the prospect of playing in front of a packed MCG.
“I’m pretty happy that it’s going to be packed. The last few games, I played here it wasn’t full, and it almost feels wrong in a way. You almost get lost in the middle out there, it’s so big. So it’s nice to know that it’s going to be choc-a-bloc tomorrow.
“I’ve always enjoyed big crowds and enjoyed busy games, intense games, so it should get the blood flowing tomorrow playing in front of the big crowd in a big stadium with great tradition and history,” he said.
Brendon McCullum blazed his way to a 25-ball-77 against England yesterday but De Villiers was not bothered as to whether the Kiwi skipper would eclipse his 32-ball world record or not.
“I didn’t see any of the shots that he played. I didn’t watch his innings at all. I heard about the knock. It’s an impressive knock. He’s a wonderful cricketer, so I can’t say that I was worried because I wasn’t watching. But it looked like a really incredible knock.”