Apart from the New Year's Test, which was delayed this year, the pink ODI is the biggest occasion in South Africa's cricket calendar. A sold-out Bullring turns up primarily in pink to increase awareness for a cause. For the six pink ODIs to date, someone from South Africa has stood up with a special performance. AB de Villiers did so against West Indies in 2015, scoring the fastest ODI century. He is finally back for South Africa after a three-match layoff because of injury. South Africa are banking on a mix of the return of a special player and a special occasion to galvanise them into giving a special performance to keep the series alive.
"Jeepers, AB is AB," Chris Morris said when asked of the implications of de Villiers' return. "Apart from what he brings on the field, it's what he brings off the field. He brings that calmness, he brings that experience. To have a world-class player come back and play for South Africa is a special, special occasion. It's a special moment for me, for me I quite enjoy sharing the field with him. It's a special occasion every time I walk on to the field with AB because to me he is - if not the best - one of the best players in the world and one of the best players to ever play for South Africa. But to the team, he brings so much more than runs, he brings AB de Villiers. The AB de Villiers factor, let's put it that way."
South Africa's big problem in the series has been their inability to play spin. India's two wristspinners - Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal - have taken 21 wickets between them in three matches at an average of 9, an economy rate of 3.63 and a strike rate of a wicket every 15 balls.
JP Duminy admitted after the loss in Cape Town that the batsmen are not picking the wristspinners out of the hand, and are also struggling against the pace and lengths they have been bowling. Morris hopes the batsmen will set it right with the video work they have been doing, but also believes the return of de Villiers will also bring knowledge on how to face them.
"Look AB has always got inputs; doesn't matter if it's spin, seam, behind the back," Morris said. "It doesn't matter what inputs he's got, it's always good. I'm sure AB will have a few pointers for the guys on how to handle spin and how to play spin, maybe a few different attacking options but like I said, it doesn't matter what advice because he's got advice for everything and it's always solid. When AB talks, you listen because it's always helpful."
Coming back with such messiah-like expectations can be difficult for de Villiers. "At the moment we are all under pressure, put it that way," Morris said when asked if there would be extra pressure on de Villiers. "We are 3-0 down in the series; what more pressure do you need? If AB is coming in, I don't think he is feeling any added pressure. He is just going to come in and be AB de Villiers. I think AB de Villiers being AB de Villiers is a very dangerous player.
"It's exciting to see how he's going to come out tomorrow but there's no added pressure. Every single guy in the team is feeling pressure. We know we've under performed, we know the way we've lost hasn't been good. I think we are all dying to put on a good performance tomorrow, and to show that we can really play this game and what we are capable of."
Like India took heart from their unbeaten record in Tests at Wanderers before they won the third Test, Morris looks at their pink-day record with optimism. "I keep harping on how special an occasion it is," Morris said. "It's really good. My first pink day, we saw I got some runs, won the game. Last year Dwaine Pretorious came in and got a four-fer and won the game for us as well. So you know it's a special time, I think ... I always joke about that ... when people go and play at Lord's, they put on special performances because you are playing at the home of cricket. Tomorrow is such a massive day for South Africa. People arrive for the occasion and they turn it on for the occasion. We have had a good run in the last couple of years for the pink day, and hopefully we can do the same tomorrow but would be quite nice to see a youngster put his hand up tomorrow and win the game for us tomorrow."