Seven matches in, India’s World Cup is about to begin. They will meet a South Africa side already two bruising games into their own campaign, and already reeling from defeat and injury. Knocked flat by England in the opener, they were left chasing Bangladesh’s dust on Sunday. Until Tuesday, no Indian squad member addressed the press while Faf du Plessis has spent more time in pressers than he has in the middle.
It’s not that India haven’t found ways to fill the hours. Virat Kohli has been to London, to visit the Queen (no news on whether he frightened a little mouse under her chair) while the squad has even kicked back with a game of paintball between training sessions, and Sunday was a rest day.
South Africa, meanwhile, have already had a batsman concussed, a bowler limp off with a tweaked hamstring, twice conceded 300-plus totals and twice failed to chase them down. And now possibly the biggest blow of all: Dale Steyn has been ruled out of the tournament. The India match will be their third in six days, and there has been barely any time for respite, never mind to formulate a Plan B (or C, or D).
“Time to panic,” Jonty Rhodes tweeted as Bangladesh motored to their highest-ever ODI total on Sunday. If that was a time to panic then, comrades, now is the time to push the big, red button on this Chernobyl-style meltdown. If you’re a South African fan, this might be the time to look away. The numbers in this preview are going to make for gruesome viewing.