The last time there was a clash between the table toppers, India beat New Zealand quite comfortably. It might not be the same when they meet South Africa at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata, for South Africa looks as good an all-round team as India is.
If anything, the South African batting line-up has been more consistent than the Indian one. Quinton de Kock already has four hundreds under his belt in the tournament and is looking to equal Rohit Sharma’s record of five centuries in one edition of the tournament. How he and Rassie van der Dussen cope up with the Indian new ball attack is going to be the key to the contest as also how Markram and Klaasen deal with the spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja in the middle overs.
Hardik Pandya missing the tournament is a big blow to India because he was a two in one player who lent incredible balance to the team and offered the captain so many options.
His injury opened the doors to Suryakumar Yadav and Mohammed Shami. While Surya hasn’t quite got the overs to make the impact, Shami has grabbed the opportunity with both hands capturing two ‘fifers’ and one four-wicket haul to mitigate the absence of Hardik.
Yes, the concern remains as to what if one of the five bowlers gets injured or has a bad day. Hopefully that won’t be the case. With Siraj’s getting back to wicket-taking ways in a fiery way against Sri Lanka and Bumrah giving nothing from his end, it was a complete lock-down as far as Sri Lanka was concerned.
South Africa also have a potent new-ball attack with Marco Jansen getting the ball to swing and bounce. Ngidi is bowling tight lines and Rabada, with that ‘oh so smooth’ run-up reminiscent of the great Michael Holding, is continuing the pressure along with the spirited Gerald Coetzee.
The hard-working and underestimated Keshav Maharaj is picking up wickets regularly; so the Proteas have a testing bowling attack. They may have an advantage in their fielding, but if Rohit Sharma gets going then it hardly matters.
The Eden could well have the match of the tournament.
(Professional Management Group)