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“Just throw the first punch…”: De Villiers’ advice to Team India for breaking ICC trophy drought

Legendary South Africa batter AB de Villiers wants Team India to “throw the first punch” and be aggressive in their gameplay if they want to win this ongoing ICC T20 World Cup.

India will be playing Afghanistan in their ICC T20 World Cup Super Eights game at Barbados on Wednesday. India ended their group stage with three wins in three matches against Ireland, Pakistan and the USA in Group A while their last game against Canada ended in a washout. Afghanistan ended the group stage in second place in Group C, with three wins and a loss to West Indies.

India will be aiming to end their trophy drought at ICC tournaments, having last won the ICC Champions Trophy back in 2013 following T20 WC and 50-over World Cup wins in 2007 and 2011. Since then, India has come close to winning tournaments, reaching semifinals and finals, but have always come on the wrong side of results during the knockouts.

Speaking on his YouTube channel, De Villiers said, “Just make sure you throw the first punch. In the past World Cups, I think they have been a bit conservative, sort of feeling their way into a game. They are such a quality team that I feel they can take a bit of a risk early in the game to get the momentum because there is no looking back once they get the momentum.”

De Villiers also wants star India batter Virat Kohli to bat at number three during the ongoing ICC T20 World Cup, calling him the “best player in the world during middle overs”.

Virat, the top run-getter in T20 World Cup history, was expected to light up the tournament as he has done consistently for years. Rather, he has been off to an extremely poor run, with scores of 1 (against Ireland), four (against Pakistan), and zero (against the USA). Two of Virat’s dismissals came while the batter was taking an aggressive route with the bat, while his dismissal against the USA saw him poking at a ball landing outside off stump, something with which he has struggled often.

Virat arrived in the tournament after a stupendous Indian Premier League (2024) season with the bat for Royal Challengers Bengaluru (RCB), where he scored 741 runs in 15 innings at 61.75 and a strike rate of 154.69, with a century and five fifties and also won the Orange Cap. Virat registered his highest-ever strike rate in his IPL career and was exceptional against spinners, taking a more attacking approach against them.

However, this aggressive approach did not work for him on the tough surfaces of Nassau County International Stadium in New York, which was criticized for its bounce and poor play for batters. But in the West Indies, Virat will be raring to go and break his streak of poor scores with a big knock making use of his newer style. India will be playing their games in Barbados, Antigua and Saint Lucia.

De Villiers said on Virat, “I have always said please bat Virat at number three. Especially in better wickets that they will play now, Virat is the go-to guy at number three. He can play the attacking game and also pull back and absorb the pressure if necessary. He is the best player in the world in the middle overs. I do not see any reasons (for opening).”

India squad for T20 WC: Rohit Sharma (c), Hardik Pandya, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant, Sanju Samson, Shivam Dube, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Arshdeep Singh, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohd. Siraj. Reserves: Shubman Gill, Rinku Singh, Khaleel Ahmed, Avesh Khan. (ANI)

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