India are shaping up as World Cup surprise packets, with veritable home-ground support proving the defending champions’ trump card.
Sunday’s clash against South Africa at the MCG attracted a crowd of 86,876 – the vast majority of them forming a sea of blue and waving India flags.
India cruised to a 130-run victory, denting the highly-fancied South Africans’ confidence in the tournament.
As was the case at Adelaide Oval a week prior, the noise generated by Indian fans was something that few at the venue will forget quickly.
It bodes well for MS Dhoni’s men, especially if they return to Melbourne for the March 29 final at the same venue.
“It just adds to the atmosphere that gets created,” Dhoni said after his side posted an upset 130-run win over South Africa.
“It starts from the warm-up and after the national anthem, it just multiplies.
“It’s always good to play in front of good support.
“It’s really heartening to see people coming from all over – not only India, a lot of them are from Australia, from England.”
Dhoni kept a lid on his side’s prospects of winning back-to-back World Cups, but made an effort to “give a lot of credit” to the fans that turned up on Sunday.
The veteran wicketkeeper went so far as to say it exceeded the level of support his side received at some grounds back home.
“Some of the stadiums don’t have that kind of capacity, so even when they are full they’re close to 40,000,” Dhoni said.
“(At the MCG it was) close to more than 50,000 to 60,000 people supporting us.”
South Africa skipper AB de Villiers denied the one-sided crowd was a factor in his team folding so meekly.
“You’ve got to win games wherever you play in the world to be the best team in the world,” de Villiers said.
“It obviously plays a role for them … feeling that they’re playing at home with a lot of support.
“It’s definitely not an excuse. It shouldn’t play a role, no.”
de Villiers admits last night’s loss had dented South Africa’s confidence at the World Cup.
De Villiers says his side will find a way to turn things around when they face West Indies on Friday, but that last night’s margin was “almost embarrassing”.
The most pressing concern for the Proteas is Vernon Philander’s hamstring injury, with the paceman unable to bowl yesterday after his opening spell.
India are now in the box seat to top Pool B.
Dhoni was particularly impressed with his side’s fielding.
“We know with our fielding we can actually add another 15 runs … to whatever we score,” Dhoni said.
India, now in the box seat to top Pool B, next face the United Arab Emirates in Perth on Saturday.
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