New Delhi: It’s Wednesday, 5 June, the day India will start their World Cup campaign against South Africa. India are one of the favourites — and it’s not just India’s billion cricket fans who believe that — while the tournament has so far proved a bed of nails for South Africa. The Proteas lost the opening match of the World Cup to hosts England, and then went on to be upset by Bangladesh.
Thus, India vs South Africa is crucial for both teams. South Africa don’t want to be making early reservations to fly back home without putting up a fight. For India, it’s important to get off on the right foot, especially with Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan the next three matches on the fixture list.
So, what are India’s chances of putting it across South Africa? No one can predict that with certainty, but here are some historical signs and omens from previous World Cup opening matches that can provide some clues.
Winning the first match
Every time India have won their opening match at a World Cup, they have at least reached the semi-finals. The only exception to this rule was 1987, when Kapil Dev’s defending champions lost their opening match, and yet made it to the knockout stage.
What the toss could indicate
India have lost more tosses than they’ve won in their opening World Cup games — six to five respectively. In the ongoing World Cup in England and Wales, six out of seven teams that have won the toss have decided to bowl first, with four losing and two winning.
A quirky statistic is that both times India have won the World Cup, they have lost the opening toss and won the game. In 1983, Kapil’s Devils beat the West Indies in the opening game after losing the toss, and history repeated itself in 2011 at the opening game against Bangladesh in Dhaka.
India have batted first in their last five opening World Cup matches, winning four (and losing to Bangladesh in 2007).
Overall, India’s record is not great when chasing in their opening match, winning just one out of five — in 1996 when Sachin Tendulkar’s unbeaten 127 helped Mohammad Azharuddin’s side beat Kenya.
India vs South Africa at the World Cup
India and South Africa have played against each other four times at World Cups, with the Proteas registering three wins and India managing to win only in 2015. India have batted first in all their World Cup matches against South Africa.
Kohli, the quick starter
Virat Kohli has scored opening match centuries in both the World Cups he has featured in. He scored 100 not out against Bangladesh in 2011, and 107 against Pakistan in 2015. India won both matches.