Determined India face stern South Africa test
Their campaign is back on track after the morale-boosting victory over Pakistan, but India can hardly afford to relax as they take on an erratic but still quite intimidating South Africa in their final Super Eights match, on Tuesday, for a place in the semi-finals of the ICC World Twenty20 in Colombo.
The fight for the second semi-final slot from Group 2 is indeed intriguingly poised, as both India and Pakistan have a fair chance of making the cut, although Australia seems the favourite at the moment.
India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni admitted that devising a strategy without knowing the result of the Australia versus Pakistan game will be foolhardy.
In case Pakistan (-0.426), who are a shade better than India (-0.452) in terms of net run-rate, happen to win against Australia, Dhoni and his men will then have to win comprehensively against the South Africans in order to make it to the last four.
Image: India's coach Duncan Fletcher speaks with captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni at a training session
Photographs: Philip Brown/Reuters
South Africa will want to end the tournament on a respectable note
If Australia maintain a clean slate in the 'Super Eights' by beating Pakistan, the equation will be a lot easier for India, as a win will be good enough.
Even in case of a defeat against South Africa, India should ensure that they don't lose by a big margin, as the net run rate will come into play with three teams tied with one win each. South Africa have lost both their matches in contrasting manner -- a close defeat to Pakistan and a comprehensive one against Australia.
AB de Villiers and Co. will now want to end the tournament on a respectable note and think of an outside chance of qualifying although their net run-rate might prove to be a deterrent.
On Tuesday, the Indian team will not only have to deal with a South African team that is keen to maintain its reputation as a world-class outfit but also have to counter the threat of a man who knows about them like the back of his hand.
Image: South Africa players
Photographs: Pal Pillai/Getty Images
Spin will again play a key role in the match
Gary Kirsten, inarguably India's most successful cricket coach, is now in the opposition ranks and will play a key role in trying to plot the downfall of the 'Men in Blue'.
Spin will again play a key role in the match and it will be interesting to see whether Dhoni will go for a second spinner in Harbhajan Singh by dropping senior pro Zaheer Khan.
With the seven-batsman policy paying results, a theory Dhoni believes in, it remains to be seen whether he will re-jig his bowling resources or stick to the winning formula.
The South African batsmen looked distinctly uncomfortable against the off-spin of Mohammed Hafeez and Saeed Ajmal in the match against Pakistan.
Even left-arm slow orthodox bowler Xavier Doherty troubled the Proteas in the last match, and that should certainly encourage Yuvraj Singh, who has turned into a utility 'bowling all-rounder' in this edition of the World T20.
The big question is whether the Indian skipper will bring in Harbhajan, who can be effective, considering the South African line-up features two left-handers in Jean-Paul Duminy and Robin Peterson.
Image: Harbhajan Singh
Photographs: Getty Images
Opening woes for India
The opening woes, however, is cause of concern for Dhoni, as both Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir have been scratchy in the tournament.
Sehwag, who was brought back for the Pakistan match, showed his intent to stay at the wicket and should be praised for playing second fiddle to Virat Kohli during the defining 74-run second-wicket partnership.
But, at the same time, the senior opener frittered away a good start and got out at a time when he looked good for his first half-century of the tournament.
Gambhir made a useful contribution in India's victory against England, but, otherwise, has had a very quiet tournament.
Image: Gautam Gambhir and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (right) look on at a training session
Photographs: Philip Brown /Reuters
Mouth-watering clash on the cards
It will again boil down to the performance of Kohli, the most consistent batsman in India's top order.
The team management also requires Yuvraj to make a significant contribution with the bat, as he has been consuming way too many deliveries.
An interesting battle is expected between India's batsmen and the fiery pace of Dale Steyn and disconcerting bounce that Morne Morkel will generate.
In all, a mouth-watering clash is on the cards on the final day of the Super Eights.
Teams (from): India: MS Dhoni (c), Gautam Gambhir, Ravichandran Ashwin,Lakshmipathy Balaji, Piyush Chawla, Ashok Dinda, HarbhajanSingh, Zaheer Khan, Virat Kohli, Irfan Pathan, Suresh Raina,Virender Sehwag, Rohit Sharma, Manoj Tiwary, Yuvraj Singh.
South Africa: A.B. de Villiers (c), Hashim Amla, FarhaanBehardien, Johan Botha, JP Duminy, Francois du Plessis,Jacques Kallis, Richard Levi, Albie Morkel, Morne Morkel,Justin Ontong, Wayne Parnell, Robin Peterson, Dale Steyn,Lonwabo Tsotsobe.
Match starts at 1930 IST
Image: India's vice-captain Virat Kohli stretches
Photographs: Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters