Wicket Keepers MS Dhoni and AB De Villiers will march out their troops for one last time in the Super 8s as India and South Africa play each other on October 2nd at the R.Premadasa stadium in Colombo. This will be the last fixture of the Super 8s and a lot could depend on the earlier fixture between Australia and Pakistan, the first game on 2nd October.
India’s consistency wave has been taking steep turns and bends as they look ordinary against one team and unbeatable against the other. They seemed clueless in the game against Australia and showed up with totally different intent against Pakistan. One could also say that a game against Pakistan in major tournaments like a World Cup often brings the best out of this side. But what they face next is a different challenge altogether. Currently, South Africans will be the trickiest to face in a do-or-die contest. They too have touched different extremes in terms of consistency. In the group stages, they seemed like the team to beat, a team that will stroll past every side and land a semis spot. But things went downhill in the super 8s. AB De Villiers and his boys put up poor performances against Australia and Pakistan and one could even start to recall the famous ‘C’ tag after what happened to them in the game against Pakistan.
As far as Dhoni is concerned, he will be positive and look to take the attack to a side which will be slightly low on confidence. Dhoni could have a headache in picking the right team combination but he often walks away with the best ones. One example could be of a certain Mr. Joginder Sharma who even got to bowl the final over in the 2007 T20 World Cup which India ended up winning. He might be tempted to bring Harbhajan back into the scheme of things and even drop a batsman to accommodate that.
South Africa are facing yet another situation where they seem like a promising side only in their comfort zone. Once there is extra pressure exerted on them, they seem to cave in. De Villiers will be aware of the fact that this title will be his best chance to get the C-word monkey off South Africa’s back. But in that process, he faces a big test in the form of India.
Permutation and Combinations
On current rankings, Australia sit at the top of this group with 4 points and a very healthy net run rate. Behind them are Pakistan on 2 points and a NRR of -0.426, closely followed by India on the same number of points and NRR of -0.452. South Africa are fourth with zero points and NRR -0.169. Amongst India, Pakistan and South Africa, South Africa are chasing an outside chance to pip the two teams above them for a semis spot. They will hope to see Australia thrash Pakistan, which will bring Pakistan’s NRR down and then give themselves a chance to earn a resounding win against India to just scrape through on NRR. As far as India and Pakistan are concerned, both need wins and going by the marginal difference in the NRR of both these sides, India will have to win in a slightly more comprehensive manner than Pakistan. If Australia wins however, a win even by the narrowest margin will put India through.
Head to Head: The two sides have played 6 T20Is against each other with India winning 4 and South Africa winning 2.
Players to watch
Virat Kohli: In the current squad if there is one player who I could rely on to play a good innings and earn an important win for India, that would be this man. He has had an unbelievable year with the bat in all three formats of the game, with three months of cricket still remaining this year. He has shown a great sense of maturity over a period of time and he may be the one who will eventually prevail against the likes of Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn.
Virender Sehwag: Opener Virender Sehwag has been in and out of form as well as the starting XI. Too much is being said about his relationship with his captain and a possible rift. Here’s a chance for him to come out and play a typical Sehwag-like innings, take a couple of blinders on the field and prove the entire media wrong. Both Dhoni and Viru would love that and so will the millions of fans.
Ravichandran Ashwin: The conditions very clearly suit the Indians more than the Proteas. Ravi Ashwin will be crucial to send the likes of Jacques Kallis and Hashim Amla packing before they do serious damage early on. The Proteas struggled against spin in their game against Pakistan and that may prompt Dhoni to even open the bowling with his number one spinner.
Jacques Kallis: However old he gets, Jacques Kallis will remain one of South Africa’s biggest asset. A big game calls for a champion to step forward and guide his team through all the hurdles. ABD will look at Kallis as that Champion. His all-round contributions will be the most crucial for the team’s bid to land a spot in the semis.
Dale Steyn: Dale Steyn will be the go-to man for the Proteas in a crucial game like this. The Indian openers have been in troubled form in the recent past and AB De Villiers will throw the ball to his leading fast bowler to get rid of them and put immense pressure on India early on. His 4 overs could be the difference between the two sides.
AB De Villiers: South Africa’s opening pair hasn’t done well with Richard Levi’s disastrous form refusing to end. On conditions which De Villiers is quite familiar with, he might want to promote himself to even open the innings and try to unsettle the bowlers. With Amla at the other end, De Villiers could play his shots and make quickfire contribution to his side.
Prediction: At the start of the tournament, I wanted the South Africans to take this T20 World Cup. They came into the tournament in such splendid form in all forms of the game. This was their chance to end their wait for a major title. But, I sadly doubt that happening now. In fact, the side have crumbled under pressure in the super 8s and India too will be too tough to handle. Alas, the association with the C-word will continue while India could find themselves in the semis.