SOUTHAMPTON, June 4: Virat Kohli will embark on the most defining journey of his international career, carrying the hopes of more than a billion when he leads India against a struggling South Africa in their World Cup opener here on Wednesday.
Indian players during a training session ahead of their ICC Cricket World Cup match against South Africa at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton, England. – AP/PTI
Kohli is one of the best batsmen of this era but this edition of the World Cup will define his legacy as a leader, an aspect on which the jury is still out despite some heady achievements in the Test arena.
The current team does have potent match-winners with the skipper himself being the biggest of them all but it still misses the aura, the ‘class of 2011’ under Mahendra Singh Dhoni had.
Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Gautam Gambhir, Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh were in a different league with the support cast comprising Munaf Patel, Ashish Nehra, Suresh Raina and a young Kohli.
But this team, led by Kohli and mentored by Dhoni, has had its share of good results and six wins in nine games would ensure a smooth passage into the semifinals.
Two years of investment has gone into building a potent ODI squad, something that started right after the 2017 Champions Trophy final loss against Pakistan.
The ‘Men In Blue’ have had adequate rest. All other teams have already played two games each and they can’t wait to kick-start their campaign with a commanding performance.
The first match in a tournament of such vast magnitude is always important and South Africa’s confidence will be at its lowest following back-to-back defeats against England and Bangladesh.
To make matters worse, fast bowler Lungi Ngidi is out with a hamstring strain, senior speedster Dale Steyn is still recovering from a shoulder injury and Hashim Amla got a nasty hit on the helmet off Jofra Archer’s short ball against England in the opening game.
The clash couldn’t possibly have been more well-timed as India have a chance to hold the Proteas by the scruff of their neck when they are seemingly at their weakest. – PTI