Expect South Africa’s pace attack to bomb India’s batsmen with the short ball at the MCG on Sunday.
The stage is set at Melbourne where there will be 100,000 people baying for blood. The venue, with such a crowd, is cricket’s version of the Colosseum in Rome, a throwback to the gladitorial days. It is an unbelievable venue and I have a feeling that South Africa will be up for it against the world champions.
But India are a side laden with quality batsmen. If we bat first I think we’ll need to get 300 on the board, and it’s a match in which Quinton de Kock needs to get runs at the top of the order. We won’t feel safe with less than 300 if we bat first. As I have said before, he came into the World Cup short of runs and the pitch in New Zealand in the opener against Zimbabwe didn’t suit him. The MCG will be much more to his liking, but he needs to get going with the bat, although he has a great record against India.
When we bowl I fully expect Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Wayne Parnell – there’s talk of him being picked ahead of Imran Tahir – to be cranking up the speed. With those three bowling at 140km/h plus and with plenty of it short-pitched bowling I can assure you it won’t be fun for the Indian batsmen.
The Proteas bowlers have to get them out of their comfort zone. They love the ball pitched up, driving down the ground, but with all due respect to them, India’s batsmen have never been regarded as great pullers or hookers of the ball. If we bounce them, and at serious pace, I think we have a real chance of putting fear into their batting line-up.
One of the key things about bowling short and fast at the MCG is the size of the ground and the square boundaries. When you hook and pull a short ball you have to hit it really well to smack it for six. Anything not timed properly or top-edged will go into safe hands short of the boundary. The fielders square of the wicket will be key players on Sunday morning. The bowlers will be saying, ‘come on, I’m bowling short, I dare you to hit me for six’. It’s not that easy against Steyn, Morkel and Parnell at that pace. Incidentally, one other important reason why I’d include Parnell in the starting XI is because he can also score runs, and runs are going to be important when one looks at around 300 at the MCG.
Then there’s Vernon Philander, who is not as quick as those other three seamers. I reckon the Indian batsmen will be targeting him and he will come under a lot of pressure. Vern is going to have to be at the top of his game to be able to withstand the challenge from the Indian batsmen.
South Africa will probably be looking at getting stuck into India’s opener Shikhar Dhawan. He’s a key player for them. He scored his maiden ODI century against the Proteas at quicker than a run a ball in 2013 at the Champions Trophy. That was in Cardiff, but we learnt from that and later that same year when we bowled short and fast to him. The result was that he scored 12 at the Wanderers, where Morkel had him caught behind, and then a few days later he went for a second-ball duck, Steyn getting him caught by JP Duminy. Our bowlers will remember that skirmish.
Incidentally, De Kock scored three hundreds in that series, 135, 106 and 101 – and that was the last time he faced the Indian bowlers, so he’ll be looking forward to picking up from there.
Gibbs played 90 Tests and 248 ODI matches for South Africa and scored more than 14,500 runs for his country. He also scored 175 in that ‘438 match’ against Australia at the Wanderers and hit six sixes in an over at the 2007 World Cup.