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Cricket news - Southampton, World Cup brace for impact with India's late arrival

India will be the last team to the World Cup party

The World Cup hasn't reached Southampton as yet. Around the Ageas Bowl, is one of the few places you'd find advertising around for the tournament. The rest of the city is pretty nondescript about the tournament. You could say similar things about the rest of England as well. The games have started, but not the noise around it. It doesn't help that the first few matches had been pretty one-sided, and mostly gone according to pre-game predictions. There's little fun if you can get it right all the time.

Thankfully, Bangladesh turned quite a few of those predictions wrong, with 'exciting' cricket that the World Cup strives to build towards. It's no longer a secret that the pitches, once ICC takes over, magically get a makeover that makes batsmen drool. Rather ironic if you think about it.

The World Cup hasn't come to Ageas Bowl as yet. Advertising plays devil and god here. Those that sponsor the tournament need to be worshipped, those that don't need to be plastered off or stickered over. And there's admirable dedication towards that. As there is dedication towards getting the pitches in the right color. The green splatter on the surface is given a big mow to make it bald and brown. You can see that the Ageas Bowl is well and truly on its way to welcoming the tournament.

The World Cup hasn't arrived for India as yet. It has been a week now since their last warm-up game. While some of the teams in the tournament are already down a couple, India have been gymming, paintballing and practising in the days leading up to their first game. This late start, as is well-known by now, has been due to the court-ordered gap needed after an IPL. The World Cup arrives last for India, but can that be a bane or a boon?

There'll be a level of security in knowing a few plans that teams are implementing by merely watching first. But of what use is that when there's a chance that you could forget the lessons, as Sachin Tendulkar pointed out on the opening day of the tournament? India may be the last to the World Cup party, but they are surely readying for it.

Some of India's problems have been persistent for a while now. The warm-up game against New Zealand was another reminder that the moving ball could pose a few problems, particularly so if it's from a left-arm pacer. In the last four years, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan have got out 10 and 12 times respectively to left-arm pace, with a clear dip in strike-rate and average against them. There's good reason why India's support staff includes a left-handed throwdown specialist from Sri Lanka, and the only 'net' bowler staying back through the tournament is going to be Khaleel Ahmed. That World Cup test hasn't arrived for India, and is not going to come up against South Africa. But there were other worries.

Kedar Jadhav hasn't featured in the practice games nursing a shoulder injury and is slowly getting increasing his workload in the practice sessions. A couple of days ahead of the first game, he managed some batting even as rain cut it short and turned his arm over before that, indicating that he's slowly getting back to full fitness.

KL Rahul has all but sealed his spot in the final eleven, at No. 4 which leaves out only the right bowling combination to figure out. Two wrist spinners could be a viable option against South Africa, but will that come at the cost of an in-form Shami? India haven't arrived at their final eleven but they'd have fewer things to worry about since a week ago.

The Ageas Bowl is picturesque, and hosts the Hilton Hotel as a part of the venue. South Africa have checked in there already. Dale Steyn and Hashim Amla have had a practice session to check on their match fitness. South Africa will be desperate for the duo to come through. They could have come into the game with some points advantage over India, but will now start even.

Two days out, the venue wears a deserted look apart from the working staff. You can rest assured that it'll change quite dramatically when India arrive on Wednesday to play their first game.

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