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World Cup: Friendships will take a backseat against India, says AB de Villiers

Full text of AB de Villiers' press conference before South Africa's game against India.

Q. Many South Africans are good friends with the Indians thanks to IPL. What kind of feeling do you take into the match against India?
AB de VILLIERS: Better than what they used to. Certainly doesn't play a role. It's a World Cup. You're playing for your country, representing South Africa, and they're obviously representing India. Both nations are very proud cricketing nations, so it's a matter of really putting it out there on the field and leaving everything out there on the field in order for you to win the game. Friendships are not going to play a role tomorrow. That's for sure. Every game we play, we want to win. I can't tell you now because I don't know what's going to happen the next four games we play. Maybe it's a make or break for us, maybe not, but all I know is that we want to win the game. We've prepared in order for us to win this game, and we're as ready as we can be. We're just going to go out there and give it our best shot tomorrow.

Q. AB, the MCG is obviously a really large venue, and there's a big sense of occasion playing at a place that's just so massive. What does it mean to you to play in a venue of this size and to know that there will be a huge crowd in the stadium, not just watching at home on TV?
AB de VILLIERS: I'm pretty happy that it's going to be packed. The last few games I played here it wasn't full, and it almost feels wrong in a way. You almost get lost in the middle out there, it's so big. So it's nice to know that it's going to be chockablocktomorrow. I've always enjoyed big crowds and enjoyed busy games, intense games, so it should get the blood flowing tomorrowplaying in front of the big crowd in a big stadium with great tradition and history. We always love playing in big games, so nothing will change tomorrow. We're just looking forward to playing some good cricket tomorrow.

Q. AB, Dale Steyn, the impression was that he was difficult to handle, but a couple of times in the IPL you actually hammered Dale out of the park. Do you think you have figured out how to handle Dale?
AB de VILLIERS: I wouldn't say so, no. Look, it's a different format of the game, and it's completely different conditions, very small fields in India, slow wickets. It's completely opposite to what you can expect in India. It's quicker wickets over here, bigger fields. He will be a handful in this tournament.

Q. Do you think India coming after a victory against Pakistan, which is their arch, is making it tougher for you? Would you have liked it the other way around?
AB de VILLIERS: I'm not too worried about other teams' results, even though we are part of the whole tournament, and it does influence us. I've encouraged the guys not to take part in too much of the other cricket going on. We know India is still the world champions. We know they are an incredible cricket team, so the respect factor is definitely still there, and the respect for us towards them as a cricket team is definitely there. Whether they've won or lost, it would not have changed a lot in our planning and preparation going into this game. We know they're a very dangerous side, and we're going to play accordingly and hopefully come out on top tomorrow.

 World Cup: Friendships will take a backseat against India, says AB de Villiers

South Africa's captain AB de Villiers speaks during a press conference at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. AFP

Q. How is Michael? How is he fitting into camp and what's been the biggest benefit of having him around?
AB de VILLIERS: Yeah, very easy answer that. He's a really wonderful human being, and that's probably the main reason why he's fitted in so well. He just wants the best for us, wants to have an impact on the batters and all the players. But one of our biggest values as a cricket team is us just being humble, humble people, good human beings. That's what we strive for, and he is one of those guys, so he's fitting in very nicely.

Q. Has he had any advice or wisdom about playing at the MCG?
AB de VILLIERS: He's given us advice, yeah. Everything we covered the last few days when it comes to the analysis of the conditions, what to expect, what not to expect, we covered pretty much all of that, and he was just there to give us some confirmation that we are on the right track. He let us know when we were talking nonsense, as well. It's just nice to have him around, a guy with great experience, a guy that's won a World Cup before. He's a great finisher. He's handled pressure situations really well, and that's the kind of people that we like to have in our squad.

Q. You've been having a lot of talk about your bowling lineup, obviously, and Immy's role. There's a lot of talk about how well India batsmen have played him. Are you just very keen to back him, Immy (Imran Tahir)?
AB de VILLIERS: Yeah, Immy, he's been one of our best bowlers over the last two years. There's no way that, unless there's some funny injury over the next 24 hours, that he's not going to play. I see him as a match winner against any team in the world. It's a matter of bowling him at the right times, and that's my job, to make sure he bowls at the right times in order to give him the best opportunity to win us games, and that's what he's best at doing. I can't see him not playing tomorrow.

Q. AB, the perception is that the wicket will be quite fast and favor the South African pace bowlers, and India are not that good against them. Is that sort of part of the plan? And then also, individuals on the team have done well at this ground, if you think of JP's 166 and Dale Steyn's 76. You might have scored 100 here. Does that also help, having good memories of a ground, as a team and as individuals?
AB de VILLIERS: It does help. Just to come back to your first comments, it's actually played exactly the opposite of all the games I've played here in the past. I've never played at the MCG with a lot of pace and bounce. It's always been quite slow, which doesn't suit us that well, but definitely that perception that you talk about is certainly wrong. The last game we played here against Australia was one of the slowest wickets I've ever batted on. At night maybe it skids on a little bit more, which will bring us in attack a little bit more into the game, but also you get value for your shots a little bit more. It's a lot to think about, but it's certainly not a quick wicket, so we'll just really have to just adapt as quickly as possible, assess the conditions and try and get the momentum on our side. Good memories of this field, yes. I personally haven't scored a lot of runs here, except for the last game I got 80 odd, but like I said before, it's a beautiful stadium to play cricket at. It's going to be full and should be great energy in the crowd. Hopefully we can entertain them with some good cricket.

Q. AB, you talk about Mike Hussey being a great finisher and obviously he would be working with your batsmen, but would it be fair to say that you're not going to win the World Cup with the top four making 25 or less, and Mike's experience would be guys like Hayden and Gilchrist making the runs at the top of the order? Is that something that Mike Hussey would have impressed or you would have impressed on your top four leading into this match?
AB de VILLIERS: Top four has been the reason why we've won games in the last few years, so there's no real issues there, I believe. We've had some issues in our middle order of guys really stepping up, finishing games. Definitely we've seen big improvement over the last few games, and they're sort of stepping up. Hussey is there just to make sure that confidence levels run high in the middle order. I see it as a big area in all formats of the game, to win your games. Five, six, seven, those positions are really important. The top four I believe is the best top four in the world at the moment, scored all the runs over the last few years, won us some really, really important games, and there's no real issues there. I'm not too worried aboutÂ

Q. In terms of this tournament have you told them (inaudible)?
AB de VILLIERS: In the last game the top order scored 340 runs. That's what happened the last game. We're a batting unit    the top order, the top six    No.7 didn't even bat, so we see ourselves as a top six. Not long ago, the top three scored 300 and whatever runs. Every game is going to be different. Sometimes the top three is going to score a hundred, sometimes 200, sometimes 300, and there will be games where we'll be 10 for 3, maybe even 20 for 4. That's a team. You operate together as a unit. Sometimes the bowlers will win you games, sometimes the batters will. That's the game of cricket.

Q. AB, when you scored your 131 balls, it seems the record was time for a while, so were you worried yesterday when you saw McCullum going all guns blazing? Were you worried for your record a little bit?
AB de VILLIERS: I didn't see any of the shots that he played. I didn't watch his innings at all. I heard about the knock. It's an impressive knock. He's a wonderful cricket player, so I can't say that I was worried because I wasn't watching. But it looked like a really incredible cricket knock.

Q. AB, what constructive lessons did you get from that victory against Zimbabwe that you implemented in training this week?
AB de VILLIERS: Look, the other guy I mentioned before about we were 80 for 4 and the way we came back was very positive for us. Obviously I think the top order took some learning out of that, just assessing conditions a bit better up front. That's probably the main thing we learnt with the bat in hand, just to take it home up front and make sure you lay a nice foundation for whoever to cash in at the end. With the ball in hand, started a bit slow, but I think the guys took the learning from that, and we're ready to go tomorrow.

Q. Just wanted to ask you about Duminy and Miller as finishers, and No.6 and No.5, how do you talk about them as developing as one of the best middle doing the finishing job for the team really, how they've developed over the time?
AB de VILLIERS: Yeah, there's not much talking to do at the moment. The previous game they showed what they're all about as batters. They love batting together. I'm just expecting more of that in the next few games, just for them to really apply themselves at the crease, not try and do too much, but just get themselves in it and see what happens from there on in.

Q. We know players aren't very particular, not too fond of numbers, and they don't tell the complete story, either. Are your boys a little wary of spin, and how wary will you be of Ashwin? Is that even in the discussions? Is that even somewhere a point of discussion of the team, how to play the Ashwins or Jadejas against India?
AB de VILLIERS: Yeah, we covered all their players, batters and bowlers. Ashwin is a wonderful bowler. They've got some other match winners, as well. We've played spin really well over the last five years. In fact, it's definitely not a weakness of our team. Not saying that Ashwin can't win them a game tomorrow. We know what he's all about, and we've got respect for him and his abilities as a bowler. But it's not in the area we're worried about. We're just going to go play out there. We know the seamers they have, but all three of their spinners, including right now they have are dangerous players. They're all dangerous players and they can all turn the game around for India. It's a matter of just really applying yourself out there, getting used to the conditions, and then when you get yourself and you get a bit of momentum behind you, then to make it count.

Q. AB, a week off between matches. As captain do you find it tough keeping the intensity level of the players up? Would you have been more comfortable had there been a four  or five day break instead of seven or eight days?
AB de VILLIERS: No, I really enjoy the time off. I mentioned before that the tournament is quite long, but it's also important for me to slow things down and to make sure we enjoy every single moment away from the game and while we're playing. I see it as just a journey in life almost for the team. If we come out on top here, I don't want it to feel like a blur looking back. It must be a really good two months of our lives. If you rush things and you play games every second day, you almost just    like the IPL sometimes, it's a long tournament, but you look back and you think, where did those two months go to, you know. So I just want to slow things down, enjoy every moment with the team, and enjoy each other's successes, but most important enjoy time away from the game because there's enough pressured moments in the games to really eat you up, and for us to enjoy time away from the game is really important.

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Updated Date: Feb 21, 2015 17:18:42 IST