SA's batsmen and India's bowlers under scrutiny
March 12, Nagpur
Start time 2.30pm (0900 GMT)
The Big Picture
India haven't lost a game yet but haven't escaped the darts from the critics. Why hasn't Harbhajan Singh taken wickets? Why Piyush Chawla? Why not R Ashwin? Why are the batsmen fumbling? Why do the fielders always fumble? Why is Zaheer Khan finding no support from other seamers? Why do they never bowl yorkers?
South Africa have lost one game but that loss threw up the same old question. Why do they choke? The two pre-tournament favourites face each other on a batting track where conventional wisdom would dictate that the team with better bowling and fielding should prevail. However, on their day, both teams are inherently strong enough to beat any logic.
Both teams have kept the team-sheet under wraps. Perhaps they really haven't yet decided. The news from the South African camp offers hints but there is nothing conclusive. Imran Tahir is a doubtful starter but he is not ruled out. AB de Villiers' back is better but it's not sure whether he will keep. If he keeps, Morne van Wyk might lose his spot and they may toy with bringing Lonwabo Tsotsobe in. Johan Botha might replace Tahir. And so it goes on. The logic is easy to understand: It's a batting pitch, so why not push AB to keep and play an extra bowler? If they hadn't choked against England, that decision would have been far easier to make.
India have their own puzzles to solve. MS Dhoni talked about going in with three seamers but he also said Ashwin might play. Barring Zaheer, India's seamers haven't really eased their captain's headaches. Sreesanth was poor in the first game, Munaf Patel has looked fine but there is no guarantee that he won't bleed runs if the batsmen take to him, and Ashish Nehra is yet to regain full fitness. Nehra was Dhoni's go-to man under pressure but suddenly, in the middle of a mundane home ODI series against New Zealand in November 2010, his form gave away and he is yet to recapture it. The Ashwin-Chawla debate has been analysed to death and it will be interesting to see what unfolds tomorrow.
Form guide(completed matches, most recent first)
South Africa LWWWW
Watch out for...
Virender Sehwag has gone relatively quiet after the first game but he can be expected to fire on a big stage. He has been over-aggressive in a couple of games but against South Africa he is likely to return to his pre-tournament mood of trying to play as many overs as possible.
JP Duminy will be crucial for South Africa if they decide to go in with an extra bowler. In the recent few games, especially in the home series against India, he showed that he can shoulder the responsibility of leading the middle order. He might well be at the forefront when South Africa take their batting Powerplay and his battle against his nemesis Harbhajan could well be the key.
How the teams arrive at the final playing XI will give us an insight into their state of mind. Will South Africa attack with an extra bowler? Will India play an extra spinner?
India (probable): 1 Virender Sehwag, 2 Sachin Tendulkar, 3 Gautam Gambhir, 4 Virat Kohli, 5 Yuvraj Singh, 6 MS Dhoni (wk/capt), 7 Yusuf Pathan, 8 Harbhajan Singh, 9 Zaheer Khan, 10 Ashish Nehra/Piyush Chawla/R Ashwin, 11 Munaf Patel
South Africa(possible): 1 Graeme Smith (capt), 2 Hashim Amla, 3 Jacques Kallis, 4 AB de Villiers (wk), 5 JP Duminy, 6 Faf du Plessis, 7 Morne van Wyk/ Johan Botha, 8 Robin Peterson, 9 Dale Steyn, 10 Morne Morkel, 11 Lonwabo Tsotsobe
Pitch and conditions
As Graeme Smith said, they've been rolling it for four days. It will be hot and dry and dew is not expected to be a factor. Smith made it clear that the toss would have minimal effect.
Stats and trivia
- Imran Tahir is the only South African bowler to take four or more wickets twice in a World Cup game
- Sachin Tendulkar has been out lbw 38 times in ODIs. Only Sanath Jayasuriya (47), and Inzamam-ul-Haq (39) have been dismissed more times.
"I don't think this is the be all and end all of the World Cup. This part is about qualifying and then going into the knockouts with some confidence. I hope it is another really good game for the World Cup.."
Graeme Smith puts the game in perspective.
"If I have two bowlers who are giving 70 runs from 20 overs, I would be quite happy with them even if they don't take wickets because ultimately the pressure turns on the batsmen to score runs in today's format ... Harbhajan is doing his job and if the batsmen are not willing to take risks, he is stopping the run-scoring opportunities and breaking the momentum."
MS Dhoni backs his lead spinner.