Fanie de Villiers: If India loses, it will put the blame on Kumble

…but that’s not right, says the former South Africa pacer. Speaking to Sportstar ahead of India’s must-win game against South Africa, the former cricketer is all critical.

“A team’s morale on a particular day depends on the senior players. It is up to them to absorb it and deliver,” says Fanie de Villiers.

There is a thing about Fanie de Villiers. He doesn’t like being politically correct, at least not in matters related to cricket!

So, as South Africa gears up for a must-win match against India in the Champions Trophy on Sunday, the former fast bowler makes it clear that the Proteas need to do something about struggling pacer Wayne Parnell.

“Parnell is the weakest point in our team. He is the weakest of them all,” de Villiers tells Sportstar. In its last two games, Parnell has conceded 79 runs, without claiming a single wicket, and de Villiers feels that his erratic bowling display is invariably putting the pressure back on the other bowlers.

“If Parnell opens the bowling for South Africa, then it would be a big problem. India would invariably benefit from it. If the Indian batsmen can go out against him and hammer him, then it breaks down the effectiveness of (Kagiso) Rabada and (Morne) Morkel,” he says, adding that by conceding big runs, Parnell is actually putting the pressure on other bowlers. “At this stage, South Africa must have another plan. Introducing Farhaan Behardien or Dwaine Pretorius would be good, or even going for two spinners is a better option. That would anyway be a better decision than going on with Parnell,” he explains.

But then, the former quick also admits that both the sides have a 50-50 chance to clinch the game. “Had India not lost against Sri Lanka, it would have had an edge. But now, it’s an even field,” de Villiers says.

He, however, justifies his stance. “The Indian bowlers could not defend 300-plus runs against Sri Lanka. That means, they are under pressure and that should work in South Africa’s favour,” he explains.

With the Indian cricket fraternity divided over the appointment of a new coach after Anil Kumble’s term gets over, the focus has shifted. And, de Villiers believes that though a coach cannot affect a team’s performance, India would make that as an excuse if it loses on Sunday. “Any doubt over the coach doesn’t affect a team’s performance on the field. It may affect slightly in the Tests, but definitely not in the ODIs. Ultimately, your coach is a mobiliser, and it is always difficult for a coach to be more important than the cricketers,” he says, adding: “But I am afraid, if India loses on Sunday, India would put the blame on Kumble. They would make him an excuse.”

Having seen cases where there have been differences between a coach and the players, de Villiers believes that it depends a lot on how the senior players perform. “A team’s morale on a particular day depends on the senior players. It is up to them to absorb it and deliver. If they can’t, then let’s admit that the senior players aren’t playing their roles,” he says.

As he talks, de Villiers makes it clear that Sri Lankan captain Angelo Mathews has exposed the chinks in India’s bowling armours. “Mathews hasn’t played much cricket. If someone like him can come and play that way, then it shows that your bowlers are not effectively consistent. That would keep the South Africans optimistic. I am sure they have closely monitored the Indian bowlers,” cautions de Villiers.

While he is flummoxed to see India bench Ravichandran Ashwin, de Villiers hopes that the South African batsmen play fearlessly. “In my day, we had three trump cards, now it has six or seven trump cards. The players like AB de Villiers, Quinton de Kock, Hashim Amla, David Miller, Faf du Plessis are big names. Then there is Rabada and Tahir… So, where there are so many big names, the side should not choke,” he says, adding that the media goes over the top every time the South Africans falter in the crucial stages. “More you play in semifinals, more will be your chances of messing up. That mindset must change,” he says.

Sugar-coating stuff is clearly not Fanie de Villiers’ forte!

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