Rohan Sharma provides his thoughts on the 2nd ODI and looks at both the lineups with a view to the World Cup.
Wayne Parnell must be wondering why lightning has struck him twice? Almost a year ago on February 21 between the same two teams Parnell would be run out attempting the winning run which would have tied the match. A blistering throw from Sreesanth to the keeper’s end would prove too much and South Africa would go on to lose the game by one run. Fast forward to today and once again Parnell is on deck to clinch the winning runs with just 2 to win and 1 to tie. An ill-fated slash to backward point flies to the awaiting Yuvraj and just like that Parnell has to suffer the ignominy of yet another last chance saloon defeat. Such characterizes the sordid state of affairs South Africa has been in decisive matches, often choking at a crucial juncture as exhibited again in this match. With the World Cup looming with each passing day, South Africa had been pinned as hot favourites, along with the likes of India and England. However this calamity has proven to unearth old traits which have long been associated with the side. South Africans are no strangers to choking as throughout various editions of the World Cup would testify. Today’s result will do nothing in reassuring their fans of what things might be.
While one team ultimately failed to go 2-0 in the series, another must be acknowledged for the superb display of competitiveness and will to fight on till the very last delivery. Such a mindset is almost foreign in Indian cricket when one examines its evolution over the previous few decades. Their Aussie-like grittiness and substance have endeared themselves with new fans and should be celebrated accordingly. Such a mindset is invaluable if India want to make a serious run for the top of the ICC ODI rankings. This doggedness in their pursuit for victory, and the calm aura which Dhoni evokes as leader, have helped the Indian team make rapid strides over the last few years. While this series is far from ideal preparation for next month’s World Cup, such narrow victories are crucial in stoking the fire in their belly and ensuring that the team continues to approach each fixture with such zest and verve.
The series is now even stevens and the next match in Cape Town promises to be a juicy affair. Both sides will see this as a decisive match in setting out the course for the series. The venue provides support for both the seamers and batsman so it should prove an interesting contest between the bowling strengths of the South Africans, and the deep batting order which India harnesses. This will also be a match which could help solidify key slots in the middle order for both teams with a view to the World Cup.
Currently the South African top order look settled going into the World Cup with Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis in full flow. The 4th and 5th spots have been clinched by the good work of AB de Villiers and JP Duminy respectively. This leaves the 6th spot open as David Miller, Colin Ingram and FAF Du Plessis are front runners. Miller, who has been placed in the spot over the previous few games has looked far from ideal in the role so this is a position which may be left to the very end to fill in. The strongest contender for the role is FAF Du Plessis who has enjoyed a stirring first class season and has the ability to hit large, bowl tidy off breaks, and is electric in the field. In terms of bowling South Africa seem to have an array of bowlers to pick from, with the most likely scenario being Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Lonwabo as the seamers with Johan Botha the sole spinner within the squad. The 7th position would be most likely taken in by a spin bowling all rounder in the ilk of Roelof van der Merwe.
India on the other hand has a few more interesting problems. While it is certain Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar will hold down the opening slot, there comes pressure as to where Gambhir should fit in? Gambhir averages around 43 in the 3rd spot so he may be picked over Kohli who has been in purple patch recently in that position. Kohli may find himself dropped down the order to the 5th/6th position if necessary to allow Yuvraj the 4th position. The 5th spot would most likely be taken by either Kohli or Raina as Raina has been experimented with at the 7th position of late for his finishing ability. Dhoni would act as the floater within the order and can move up or down as per the situation, where most times he would be in the 6th position. The 7th position is one which has proven to be the most difficult to fill. Jadeja has been largely unsuccessful in that role despite a long run at the position. Yusuf Pathan could find himself retained there as he provides a useful part time spin option, not to mention his big hitting ability as well. The seamers will also be an interesting juggle with Harbhajan most likely holding down the 8th spot. Zaheer and Nehra look to be shoo-ins for the 2 of the 3 seamer roles up for grabs with the last spot being fought out between Praveen Kumar, Munaf Patel, Sreesanth and Ishant Sharma. The most likely scenario is of Praveen or Sreesanth taking the role. India’s spin resources are also well in stock with Pragyan Ojha, Amit Mishra and Piyush Chawla.
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