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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 June 2018

Cricket World Cup - and not ICC top rankings race - on South Africans' minds ahead of ODI series against India

First of six ODIs get unedrway on Thursday between top-ranked Proteas and No 2 team India

Virat Kohli, left, and Faf du Plessis will be key players for their respective teams. Rodger Bosch / AFP
Virat Kohli, left, and Faf du Plessis will be key players for their respective teams. Rodger Bosch / AFP

South Africa and India will vie for the world No 1 ranking again when they meet in a six-match one-day international series, starting at Kingsmead on Thursday.

The ODIs get underway just five days after India retained their top ranking in Tests, although second-placed South Africa closed the points gap by winning the series 2-1.

South Africa are on top of the International Cricket Council (ICC) ODI rankings by a slender one point from India. With the points adjusted after each match, there is the potential for the No 1 position to change from match to match.

But South Africa coach Ottis Gibson is less concerned about the rankings than the long-term goal of winning the 2019 Cricket World Cup in England.

South Africa picked a big squad of 15 for the first three games and Gibson said there was a possibility other players could be considered for the last three.

"We’re the No 1 team at the moment but that doesn’t mean a lot leading up to a World Cup," Gibson said.

"Winning isn’t the be-all and end-all at this stage. There is a fine line and we will try and ensure that whatever team we pick has an equal chance of winning but we have a goal and a vision leading up to the World Cup and we want to expose as many players as possible."

Unlike the Tests, the ODIs could be dominated by batsmen, with six of the world’s top 10 ODI batsmen in action on pitches which, unlike the Tests, should favour aggressive stroke play.

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India captain Virat Kohli heads the ICC batting list, closely followed by his South African friend and Indian Premier League teammate AB de Villiers.

India vice-captain Rohit Sharma and South Africans Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis and Hashim Amla are also in the top 10, while India’s MS Dhoni and Shikhar Dhawan are at 13 and 14 on the list.

Meanwhile, India will look to the recent example of England in Australia, where the tourists overturned a Test series defeat with an emphatic one-day triumph.

India, too, have a biq squad, with only eight of nine of their 17 players having played in the Test series. Nine of the South Africans played in the Tests.