Victories of all shades ranging from the diffident to the emphatic, interspersed by a shattering loss against Australia, have defined India’s journey so far in the ICC World Twenty20.
But India can no longer afford an oscillating form-graph as it has to defeat South Africa in the Super Eights Group II match at the R. Premadasa Stadium here on Tuesday to brighten its chances of securing a semifinal berth.
Yet, a range of permutations have to fall in place for India to enter the last four.
Presuming that India defeats South Africa, its cause will be helped if Australia pips Pakistan. Then Australia will top the group with India emerging second.
But in case Mohammad Hafeez and company shock Australia, then there will be a three-way tie (four points each) between India, Pakistan and George Bailey’s men and the net run-rate will determine the top two spots. At present, Australia is comfortable on that count.
Another three-way tie for the second spot will emerge if the South Africans register their maiden victory in the Super Eights at India’s expense and Pakistan loses to Australia. In that scenario, India, Pakistan and South Africa will be level at two points each.
Despite all this number-crunching, India will surely bolster its chances if it crosses the line against A.B. de Villiers’ men. A convincing triumph will also boost its net run-rate (-0.452) that is languishing behind Pakistan (-0.426) and Australia (+1.712).
Bottom-scraper South Africa (-0.605), a terrible contrast to its No. 1 ranking in Twenty20s, needs a massive victory to shake up the table. It is a plight that may not have crossed coach Gary Kirsten’s mind when his team dished out convincing fare in the Group C outings at Hambantota.
The sudden descent began once its top-order failed in the Super Eights. Between them, Hashim Amla, Richard Levi and Jacques Kallis, have scored a meagre 49 runs against Pakistan and Australia.
The meltdown atop the batting tree, has often stymied the middle-order’s intent to disclose its aggression and has shackled the likes of J.P. Duminy and de Villiers. The batting woes have hurt its acclaimed pace attack with Dale Steyn not finding enough runs to back his effort.
India, meanwhile, has toyed with the five-bowler combine just once before embracing the status-quo of seven batsmen. Virender Sehwag’s cameo and Yuvraj Singh’s all-round display against Pakistan will hold the team in good stead and most importantly, its bowlers too found their range besides Virat Kohli continuing his good run.
A work in progress
The playing eleven still remains a work in progress for M.S. Dhoni, and with rains — there was a downpour here on Monday afternoon — adding its own textures to the pitch that has slowed down and allied with spin, the Indian captain’s choices have become complex.
Right now the simplistic swap will be the one between L. Balaji and Harbhajan Singh but that depends on the surface turning abrasive and the air remaining dry.
The vigour and consistency as seen against Pakistan has to be replicated within a span of 48 hours and only these two factors can carry the team forward.
The teams (from): India: M.S. Dhoni (capt/wk), G. Gambhir , V. Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, S. Raina, V. Kohli, Rohit Sharma, M. Tiwary, Zaheer Khan, L. Balaji, Irfan Pathan, A. Dinda, Harbhajan Singh, R. Ashwin and P. Chawla.
South Africa: AB de Villiers (capt./wk), H. Amla, R. Levi, J. Kallis, J.P. Duminy, F. Behardien, Faf du Plessis, R. Peterson, J. Botha, A. Morkel, D. Steyn, M. Morkel, W. Parnell, J. Ontong and L. Tsotsobe.
Umpires: Kumar Dharmasena and Rod Tucker; Third umpire: Ian Gould.