Indian cricket media boycotts own team
Indian journalists won't be pushed around by Virat Kohli and his star-filled cricket team.
That was the clear message sent in one of the more bizarre moments of the first week of the World Cup as a relationship that's been described as "depressing" since Kohli became captain hit a new low.
Starved of opportunities to speak to the team during a long wait for India's first game, the travelling press pack was furious when two net bowlers were wheeled out for a media conference two days out from Wednesday night's game against South Africa.
Reportedly told by team management there was no point in any first XI players appearing because they hadn't played yet, the reporters decided there was no point in speaking at all then and called the whole thing off.
It's been an odd build-up for Kohli's side. There's been practice. There's been paintball. There's been a meeting with the Queen.
But there hasn't been one shot in anger from one-day cricket's No. 2-ranked team.
India's mandatory period of waiting between series - a court ruling requires national players to be given 15 days off following the end of the Indian Premier League - means the two-time champion will be the last team to get its Cricket World Cup underway.
By the time South Africa arrived in Southampton for Wednesday's game, it had already lost two games at the tournament.
The Indian media boycotting the Indian World Cup press conference because they were only going to send a net bowler is my favourite thing of the World Cup so far.— Eid Dennisbarak (@DennisCricket_) 4 June 2019
KOHLI WANTS 'MAN TO MAN' TALK WITH RABADA
Kohli finally fronted the press on the eve of the match and was surprised to hear South Africa firebrand Kagiso Rabada had described him as immature in comments printed following their last meeting in the Indian Premier League.
"What did he say?" Kohli asked, before being given the general sentiment. "Well, I played against him many times and if anything needs to be discussed, we can discuss it man to man." Squabbles aside, Kohli is in no doubt about the impact a belated start to the tournament has had on his team: Advantage India.
Kohli and Co. go into their opening match on Wednesday fully refreshed and facing an injury-depleted South Africa already reeling from two defeats.
"It is an advantage, I have to say, in terms of understanding how the games have gone, what the conditions have to offer," Kohli said on Tuesday. "We have a lot of positives that we can take out of starting after everyone else."
SOUTH AFRICA'S STEYN BLOW
Kohli held his first official news conference of the World Cup shortly after hearing veteran South Africa paceman Dale Steyn was ruled out of the tournament. Steyn arrived in England knowing he'd miss a couple of games but confident he'd be fit enough to take on India.
So that's two defeats, and yet another big loss to South Africa's pace attack. "Still, South Africa is a very talented, a very dangerous side on their day and even with the replacements, they will be a very strong side," Kohli said. "We never take anyone lightly whether a few key players get injured or not."
South Africa's losses to England and Bangladesh in London were compounded by injuries to opening batsman Hashim Amla, who was hit on the helmet in the tournament opener and missed the second game, and paceman Lungi Ngidi, who strained a hamstring against Bangladesh and will need at least one more game off to recover.
Ngidi's injury brought forward a decision on the fitness of Steyn, who sustained a second injury to the problematic shoulder after arriving in England. Team management decided the call for reinforcements could no longer be delayed.
Left-armer Beuran Hendricks, who made his ODI debut in January, has been drafted in as cover but won't arrive until Wednesday, leaving South Africa with 13 fit players available for selection.
And that will mean a major overhaul of South Africa's strategy, which was initially designed around the pace bowlers. Chris Morris, himself a late addition to the squad when Anrich Nortje was ruled out pre-tournament, could get a start.
"There's not a lot of options in terms of the bowling attack," South Africa skipper Faf du Plessis said. "Either you decide if you want to go with all your all-rounders in one team, and have a long batting line-up and hopefully you can get a big score, chase anything because you have a lot of batting, or the two spinners."
South Africa has left-arm wrist spinner Tabraiz Shamsi available to support legspinner Imran Tahir, but du Plessis seemed to tilt toward the all-rounders option, saying the Rose Bowl didn't appear to favour spin.