Virat Kohli calls on India to show character in final Test against South Africa

India captain Virat Kohli wants to see his side pull out all the stops to get that elusive win.
Updated 23 January 2018
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Virat Kohli calls on India to show character in final Test against South Africa

JOHANNESBURG: The last two Tests South Africa played at the Wanderers in Johannesburg, against England and Sri Lanka, lasted less than three days, with the pace bowlers dominant. If the green-tinged surface on view the day before the game is any indication, batsmen on both sides face another arduous examination in the final game of a series that South Africa have already wrapped up.
India, who will retain their No. 1 ranking if they avoid a third defeat, were sifting through the positives on match eve.
“Not many times in overseas Tests have we picked up 40 wickets in two games,” the team captain Virat Kohli said.
“I said before the series that whichever team bats better would win. That has been the case.
“But it’s never a bad time to start anything. The batsmen are looking forward to rectifying the mistakes made in the first two Tests. In times that have not gone our way, if we can change things around, that will build characters and individuals. That can be a milestone for a lot of guys going forward, if they can step up in this game and be the difference.”
India will ponder the idea of playing with an all-pace attack, with Bhuvneshwar Kumar coming in for Ravi Ashwin. There could also be acknowledgment that the emphasis on “current form” has not really worked, as Rohit Sharma — whose struggles outside India show no sign of ending — makes way for Ajinkya Rahane, the vice-captain.
Kohli scored 119 and 96 at this ground in 2013, in a match that India bossed for four days before AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis nearly pulled off the improbable pursuit of 458.
“We would focus on the things that worked for us last time,” Kohli said.
“Although there’s more grass, the pace and bounce would probably be similar. We would love to have another situation where we can capitalize and bring the Test match toward us rather than let it slip away.”
For Du Plessis, whose team have never swept India in a Test series before, the stress was on more of the same, especially the stranglehold the Proteas’ bowlers have had on India’s top order.
“The last Test we played here was fantastic,” he said, after expressing amazement at India not having lost a game here in four attempts.
“Their bowling is good, a very good seam attack. If you have that, you can compete. We just have to make sure we keep their batsmen quiet.”
If the grass takes Keshav Maharaj, the spinner, out of the equation, South Africa will add either the all-round skills of Andile Phehlukwayo or play Theunis de Bruyn to bolster the batting. Either way, there will be no letting up, not with a series against Australia looming.
“Once again, India will come back with a point to prove,” said Du Plessis.
“They’re a proud team, and we’re expecting a good challenge. We have to keep doing the things we’ve been doing well. Batting in partnerships, that’s a key factor in conditions like this. If you do get in, string together a partnership.”
South Africa have, and they have the series spoils to show for it.


INDIAN SUMMER? 
India may only be playing for pride but ARAB NEWS picks the three things Kohli and Co. need to do to get that elusive win in South Africa.
SORT OUT THE FALSE STARTS 
In four innings so far, India’s opening combination has seen off 28, 47, 57 and 47 balls. But in conditions where defying the new ball is one of the primary criteria for victory, the highest partnership has been 30. Shikhar Dhawan was dropped after Cape Town, while Murali Vijay and KL Rahul have yet to replicate their run-scoring feats of the past 12 months. If they get a start, Virat Kohli and Co. could cash in. If Kohli comes in at 30 for two, South Africa will once again have the door on its hinges, ready to be barged down.
DO NOT WASTE THE NEW BALL
At Newlands, India had South Africa 12 for three, before losing both control and discipline with the ball. At Centurion, on a flatter pitch, they were tidy without looking especially threatening. They need more wickets upfront to put South Africa under serious pressure. In 2006, when India won here, it was S Sreesanth’s superb swing bowling that set up the victory. Bringing back the accurate Bhuvneshwar Kumar, the best exponent of swing in the current side, would be a start.
CATCHES WIN MATCHES
Ravi Ashwin bowled beautifully to take five wickets at Centurion. But he also had four catches dropped off his bowling. Parthiv Patel, deputising for the injured Wriddhiman Saha, did not even go for a couple of chances that went between him and first slip. Opportunities have also been dropped in the slip cordon, whose personnel keeps changing with players entering and exiting the XI. Without grabbing their chances, India will struggle to take anything from the series.


Saudi Arabia hopeful ahead of opening Asian Games opening clash against Iran

Updated 14 August 2018
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Saudi Arabia hopeful ahead of opening Asian Games opening clash against Iran

  • Young Falcons hopeful of a semifinal spot.
  • Under-23 players keen on making a name for themselves in Indonesia.

JAKARTA: There is a widely held belief that to succeed in sport, you must start early.
Officials from the Saudi Arabia National Olympic Committee will be hoping it rings true this month as the Kingdom’s Under-23 football team prepares to prematurely kick-off its Asian Games campaign this afternoon in Jakarta, three days before the continent’s largest multi-sport competition officially begins.
Similar to the Olympics, the football tournament starts before the opening ceremony and finishes on the competition’s final day, Sept. 2. The fledgling Young Falcons face Iran today at the 28,000-capacity Wibawa Mukti Stadium in the Indonesian capital.
The Saudi NOC have brought a delegation of 169 athletes, including eight females, and will compete across 22 disciplines, including athletics, shooting, taekwondo and volleyball. The three-week Asian Games operate both as a continental precursor and, at times, a qualifying tournament for 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
The Young Falcons made their football debut at the Asian Games in South Korea four years ago, reaching the quarterfinals in Incheon, before losing to Iraq. Their regional neighbors were inspired by legendary striker Younes Mahmoud, who had been included as one of Iraq’s three over-age players and scored twice in a 3-0 win.
Yet the impact of Mahmoud in Korea has not influenced the team’s selection. With the Saudi Pro League starting next week, coach Saad Al-Shehri has opted to forego athletes older than 23, instead selecting a squad consisting primarily of Al-Ahli development players and a smattering of Al-Hilal, Al-Nassr, Al-Ittihad and Al-Ettifaq-based youths.
“We haven’t brought any overage players because we are playing here as preparation for the U23 Asian Cup, which will offer qualification for Tokyo 2020,” said Faisal Almarashdi, a spokesman for the team.
“We have brought to Indonesia only players who are 21 or under as they will all be eligible for Tokyo. Many have already played at the Under-20 World Cup under coach Saad, so there was never any discussion to use the three allocated over-age slots.”
Abdullah Otayf is the model example of how Asian Games experience can help a young career. Four years ago, the deep-lying midfielder was part of the squad that traveled to Korea. This summer he was an integral part of the Green Falcons side that played at the World Cup in Russia. 
With national team coach Juan Antonio Pizzi following the competition from afar, there will be chances to catch the eye for the likes of striker Haroune Camara and midfielders Abdullah Yahya Magrshi and Ali Hassan Al-Asmari ahead of January’s Asian Cup. Both midfielders have already made their full debuts for Ahli and featured in the Jeddah club’s Champions League campaign last season, while Al-Qadisiyah’s Camara was included in Pizzi’s provisional World Cup squad before being cut from the final 23.
“These Asian Games are very important for the young players involved,” Almarashdi added.
“They are the future of the senior team so if they play well here and at the U23 Asian Cup then, we hope, they will go to Tokyo 2020. From then on the pathway to the senior team is already very clear.”  
Much like the seniors, the U23 side is both short and slight, with only two of the 10 midfielders and forwards standing above 5 foot 8 (172m). Today’s opponents Iran are not only taller and more physical, they also have, in Croatian coach Zlatko Kranjčar, a manager who knows West Asian football after short spells in Qatar and the UAE. In their most recent preparation match, Iran lost 3-2 to China. 
Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, beat the UAE last week in Malaysia following a pair of friendlies against local sides. Today’s match will kick-off at 4 p.m. local time, midday in Saudi Arabia.