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India vs South Africa, T20 World Cup: A proper test of Men in Blue’s title credentials

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India vs South Africa, T20 World Cup: A proper test of Men in Blue's title credentials

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Rilee Rossouw, David Miller, Rilee Rossouw — that’s three centuries for South Africa in their last four T20Is. Three of those were completed matches, and all three hundred came in those matches unaffected by rain.

Two of those three shots were played against India. Yes, in their final preparation for this T20 World Cup 2022, India conceded quite a few races to the Proteas. Here, cynics might argue that India easily won this T20I series. That would be a cynical view, and here’s why.

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Take a look at the South African squad for this World Cup. Quiton de Kock, David Miller, Aiden Markram, Heinrich Klaasen, Tristan Stubbs, Tabraiz Shamsi, Marco Jansen, Rilee Rossouw, Wayne Parnell, Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje, Lungi Ngidi.

Except for Temba Bavuma, Reeza Hendricks and Keshav Maharaj, they are 12 out of 15 players in his T20 World Cup squad who are currently under contract in the Indian Premier League (IPL). Not to mention, almost all of them ply their trades in various other T20 franchises as well. Truth be told, there is a great demand for South African talent in franchise cricket.

They may not be blockbuster names like the Australians, or protected assets like the English players. Hell, they’re not even as flashy as the Caribbean T20 stars. But the Proteas do a job. They help build franchise teams and fill important gaps in any T20 roster.

De Kock covers two positions – keeper and fly-half – wherever he goes. Gujarat Titans named Miller their best finisher despite his spotty performance in the past. Rabada and Nortje had powered the Delhi Capitals’ bowling attack. So much so that the franchise couldn’t keep both and Punjab got Rabada back at a certain price (Rs 9.25 crore). Who says Nortje wouldn’t command a similar auction price?

Also read: Why Pakistan would like India to win against South Africa

The Capitals then asked Ngidi to replace Rabada. Shamsi was RCB’s go-to man and also played for Rajasthan Royals. Markram, Klaasen, Jansen, Rossouw – are all international players, and they do a solid job of building the squad. Why, the Indians of Mumbai have gone further by investing in young Stubbs (as also Dewald Brevis, who misses this World Cup by a hair).

Look across other franchises, or across teams from other leagues, and you can do a similar recount for other franchises – the depth of team build would come back to the fore. By some reckoning, the Proteas are a new refueling station for global T20 demand, possibly replacing the West Indies juggernaut.

In turn, this equates to invaluable experience in the T20 scene, similar perhaps to what Indian players have and arguably even stronger. It is very common to cite the IPL as the source of India’s rise in the international cricket charts. If South African cricket has not grown in the same way, it is only because of administrative fragilities.

So what does this mean in terms of India’s upcoming game in Perth? On the one hand, it is a true test of the Indian challenge in this T20 World Cup. So far, the Men in Blue have dominated Pakistan and the Netherlands, which shouldn’t be ignored.

Even so, the Pakistan game stood out on its own, as most of these encounters against neighboring rivals do in a World Cup situation. The 2021 loss had charged him even more in what was an astronomically emotional setting, dampened by Virat Kohli’s magic move.

Did India play like world champions in this game? Ask yourself, and the straight answer would be no. Leave aside the heroism of Kohli and the histrionics of Hardik Pandya, and there was only the new bowling to rejoice. Death overs, India’s perennial weakness, proved costly and the first order failed against quality fast bowling.

Also Read: Can’t Drop Rahul Based on Two Bad Innings, Says Batting Coach Rathour

Subsequently, the Netherlands game was useful in two ways. First, it was a good practice that brought in two points. And second, it was a low-intensity encounter, which piqued India’s charged situation after Pakistan’s victory. This last element is more important from a tournament point of view.

Because, India now finds itself face to face with an emotionless adversary well established in these conditions. In their two games, South Africa had their opponents under the mark. Yes, they conceded some 80 points in Zimbabwe, but they were also 51-0 in three overs in response when the rain intervened. And the ease with which they swept through Bangladesh, in terrain he liked, was more than noticeable.

India and South Africa played on the same day in Sydney, and there was a common theme. Both teams struck first, in order to take advantage of the match conditions and context on a flatter Sydney Bridge. The ground in Perth is another true for batting, but it may look more like Melbourne wickets than SCG. This variation in conditions could influence how both teams approach the game, particularly with respect to the first batter’s approach.

For India, it’s more of a contextual thing, as the team is traditionally a chase team. They are simply more comfortable and feel more in control of the proceedings when suing. For South Africa, it’s more about playing to their strength – putting a total and then releasing their bowling lineup. This aspect would be at stake in the draw. And the team that is forced or wants to get out of their comfort zone should be fine.

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