The South Africa captain is looking to build momentum from his side's clash against Sri Lanka and carry that into the Super Eights
Physicists define momentum as “a quantity expressing the motion of a body or system, equal to the product of the mass of a body and its velocity, and for a system, equal to the vector sum of the products of mass and velocity of each particle in the system.” If that sounds like gobbledygook, don’t fret, for when cricketers, especially modern-day specimens who are well tutored in the art of saying profound things at media conferences, refer to momentum they mean something else altogether. In cricketing parlance, momentum is that thing that winning teams speak about and losing teams dismiss as being irrelevant.
Just as any team that has strung together a sequence of wins will refer casually to the confidence they’ve gained, struggling teams talk of each match being a new day, and how it’s what you do on the day that counts. The truth, as is always the case with these things, is somewhere in the middle.
AB de Villiers, South Africa’s limited overs captain, was firmly in the ‘momentum is a good thing’ camp, and you would expect that given the masterclass South Africa handed Zimbabwe. “I don’t think there will be any drop in intensity for the Sri Lanka game. We’re in the beginning stages of a very, very big event, a tournament that we really want to win,” said de Villiers. “You have to play well in every game and improve in every game. We’ll come out with a lot of energy and try and improve in areas that we didn’t play well against Zimbabwe. I don’t think we were 100% in that game. We’ve got a lot of work to do. We know we’re not a perfect team. Sri Lanka are the home team and we’re probably underdogs. We’ll try and gain more momentum out of the game.”
When de Villiers was asked if he might use the dead rubber to tinker with his team’s composition, the M word was back. “We might have a look at that. I’m pretty happy with how the team looks and the combination we used against Zimbabwe,” said de Villiers. “We may give one or two of the other guys a run, but once again, we want to win the game, beat the home team in their conditions and pick up the momentum.”
For de Villiers, the big surprise was how the pitch at the Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium in Hambantota played. “I was expecting it to bounce a bit, but not as much as it did,” said de Villiers, who was experienced enough to know that things might not be quite the same when they play the local team on Saturday (September 22). “I was surprised the pitch didn’t really take turn. I’m certainly expecting it to turn a bit more when we play Sri Lanka.”
For the man who did the job in the tournament opener, Ajantha Mendis, even a little assistance is plenty. After all, Mendis’s deception hinges on turning the ball centimetres, not inches. But he’ll be the first to admit that Zimbabwe was particularly hapless, and be prepared for South Africa to attack him. “A guy like Mendis is a world class bowler and when he’s going well he will always pick up wickets. But we’ve seen him perform under pressure and seen him break down under pressure as well,” said de Villiers. “So, hopefully, we can get the upper hand against him and not let him bowl to us.”
While de Villiers is keen to beat Sri Lanka in their conditions, he insisted he was “not too fussed about the result,” so long as South Africa “played good cricket, feel confident and go into the Super Eights with the right mindset.”