Virat Kohli calls for India calm ahead of Pretoria Test

India's captain Virat Kohli looks on during their training at Centurion Park in Pretoria. (AP)
Updated 13 January 2018
0

Virat Kohli calls for India calm ahead of Pretoria Test

PRETORIA: Virat Kohli has called on his India side to keep clam as they aim to bounce back from their 72-run defeat in Cape Town last week.
Kohli will lead the tourists out on the field for the second Test at Supersport Park in Centurion, a stronghold where South Africa have won 17 and lost just one of 21 matches.
As if that was not daunting enough India know they have to improve against the world’s best pace attack having been skittled out for 209 and 135 at Newlands.
But the India captain said this was not the time to panic and that playing an extra batsman wasn’t necessarily the answer. “People need to apply themselves much better whether we are playing five batsmen or six,” Kohli said.
“If you are playing six batters, it doesn’t mean you can afford to go out and play loose shots.
 “We might do something different, but there is definitely no need to panic. As a batting line-up, we have played well for a long time. We just need to adapt and apply ourselves better when we go out to bat.”
Shikhar Dhawan, who made 16 and 16 last week, is almost certain to sit this one out, but there was no clarity on which two openers India would go with. KL Rahul alongside Murali Vijay is the obvious choice, but given the team management’s preference for a left-right combination, there could even be a shock recall for Parthiv Patel, who last played against England in December 2016.
 If he does play, then India can afford to add an additional middle-order batsmen, with Ajinkya Rahane likely to be pencilled in at No. 5. That would mean the axe for Wriddhiman Saha, fewer than five days after he completed an Indian record of ten catches in a match.
For Faf du Plessis and South Africa, it is a straight choice between Chris Morris, the all-rounder, and Lungi Ngidi, a promising tearaway fast bowler, to replace the crocked Dale Steyn. Morris would strengthen the batting, but tends to leak runs with the ball.
“Before yesterday, I hadn’t seen him bowl at all,” said Du Plessis when asked about Ngidi. “I believe there is a lot of talent there. He bowls a heavy ball, and I’m excited to have him in the group.”
Du Plessis, who grew up in the area, expected the pitch to be fast and bouncy, but accepted that the harsh sun of the past week had burnt off much of the grass. He was also not about to discount India’s chances. “Their bowlers took 20 wickets, the only part when we were a little bit better was we got more runs in the first innings,” he said of the first Test. “I expect another huge performance from them. For us it’s about making sure we don’t take a step back. If you do that against a strong team like India, they will pounce on you.”


‘Good, but not good enough’: Juan Antonio Pizzi on Saudi Arabia’s defeat to Uruguay

Updated 20 June 2018
0

‘Good, but not good enough’: Juan Antonio Pizzi on Saudi Arabia’s defeat to Uruguay

  • A Luis Suaréz goal midway through the first half gave Uruguay a 1-0 win
  • Pizzi had spoken passionately about the need for his side to demonstrate a higher level of focus and performance

ROSTOV-ON-DON: Good, but not good enough.
That was what Juan Antonio Pizzi stated as he declared himself pleased with his team’s performance in the 1-0 defeat to Uruguay on Wednesday night.
But he lamented his side’s lack of firepower as they exited the World Cup after just two matches.
Pizzi had spoken passionately about the need for his side to demonstrate a higher level of focus and performance in Rostov-on-Don after losing their opening game 5-0 to hosts Russia in Moscow last week.
The Argentine got his wish with a display that saw the Green Falcons fight throughout and edge possession against a Uruguay side ranked 14th in the world.
A Luis Suaréz goal midway through the first half after poor goalkeeping from Mohammed Al-Owais, however, was enough to hand the Green Falcons a 12th successive World Cup defeat.
The result means that even with a win against Egypt on Monday, the Green Falcons are no longer capable of progressing to the knock-out stages from Group A.
“We had a lot of ball possession and were able to impose our style of play and distribution,” said Pizzi. “We conceded a goal from a random play and didn’t have the weapons or tools to try to equalize. We kept the ball well and weren’t really troubled defensively, but lacked that ability to score.”
Indeed, for all their possession, Saudi Arabia have managed just three shots on target in 180 minutes of football. Against Russia, they failed to muster a single effort on target and the managed just three against Uruguay, two of which came in the final minutes when they knew they had to score or face elimination. None of the three shots came from a striker.
“This is our weakness. We have good ball possession, but no effectiveness. We lack the depth and skill required to win these games,” Pizzi added. “We have that deficiency and have looked for solutions, but we haven’t quite come up with one yet. But that is one of the reasons great forward are in high demand and are the elite players in world football.”
Pizzi had made four changes ahead of the match, dropping goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf in favor of Al-Owais and introducing Ali Al-Bulayhi at the heart of the defense alongside Osama Hawsawi. Further upfield, Hattan Bahberi came in for Yahya Al-Shehri and Fahad Al-Muwallad replaced Mohammed Al-Sahlawi. The changes, particularly the inclusion of Bahberi, seemed to give the side more impetus in midfield.
“The difference between the performance in the first game and this game is enormous,” Pizzi said. “The only way to compete at this level is to play at the level we did here. And even then it was not enough even to get a draw. Undoubtedly there were other factors aside from the pressure of playing in the opening game that made a difference, but it’s true that the difference was enormous.”
Many critics had predicted a deluge of goals from the likes of Suarez and Cavani, yet both were kept at bay. Save for a couple of half-chances early on, neither came close to scoring until the 23rd minute.
A corner from Carlos Sanchez sailed into the area and when Al-Owais came for it but failed to connect with his punch, Barcelona forward Suaréz was left with the simplest of tap-ins. He was so caught off-guard, he actually looked surprised as he reeled away in celebration.
“I believe you cannot be relaxed in any match,” Suarez said when asked by a Uruguayan journalist whether he had taken it easy against the Saudis.
“We wanted to win and to progress to the knock-out stage and this game simply showed how difficult it is. That’s the World Cup for you though and we are obviously delighted with how we have performed so far to progress.”
Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez did not share his striker’s sentiments.
“Saudi Arabia wanted to excel and give a better account of themselves after losing to Russia,” he said.
“They did that very well and we have to respect them. But what surprised me the most is how we played. We underperformed.”