A friend asked me to post my thoughts on the South Africa v West Indies match, especially since both are in the same group as India and it is good to assess their strengths and weaknesses from an Indian perspective. For that reason, I stayed up all night and watched the game in entirety. Here are some thoughts regarding the 2 teams and today’s match.
Overall, it was a good outing for SA and they won comfortably chasing a below-par total. It was nice to see that SA fielded 3 full spinners (probably for the first time in their history :) and that they opened with a spinner to deny pace on the ball to Chris Gayle. They have a strong batting lineup with all their batsmen in prime form. But in my opinion, they were one batsmen short in their starting lineup. With Duminy coming in at number 5, they appear to have a longish tail with too much dependence on allrounders Du Plessis, Botha and Peterson. From an Indian perspective, if we can work our way past Duminy, they can be controlled for a below-par total since the batting looks light after that, and their questionable ability to cope with sustained pressure. They are seriously missing someone like Mark Boucher or Albie Morkel, who are game-breakers down the order.
Their bowling looks ok, then again it is difficult to judge them after one below-par performance from West Indian batsmen. Imran Tahir is a decent bowler, reminded me of Abdul Qadir with his quick-arm action. He does not turn his leg-break much, but does seem to possess a decent googly. Steyn was good as usual, and in my opinion, is the danger man for India. Morne Morkel, like I thought, was not as potent a force as he was in SA, and produced a few boundary balls without sending too many wicket-taking deliveries. Against India, I am sure they will field Tsotsobe, but he too may not be as effective as he was in SA.
Overall, SA can be beaten, but India would need to be very good with the ball and in the field and will have to work hard to get the first 4-5 wickets, after which they can hope to restrict their batting to an extent.
As in the recent past, WI promised much but threw away the match at important moments. They seem to have good talent on paper and even played well for the first 20 overs or so, but they will have to apply their mind more and ensure that the batsmen who are set, do not throw it away. They appear to be possessed with, to borrow Navjot Sidhu’s phrase, the bicycle stand mentality. Take one wicket, and expect a few more to fall quickly.
With the ball again, they started well and had SA in trouble with Amla and Kallis out cheaply, but again, took their foot of the pedal and allowed SA to come back and take control of the game. Losing Dwayne Bravo was a huge blow and I hope for their sake, that his world cup is not over.
Regarding their lineup, I think they need one more genuine bowler in their starting eleven. I know, the obvious reaction is going to be surprise, considering they collapsed with all the batsmen and allrounders in their lineup. But consider this. Their bowling lineup consists of Roach, Sammy, Benn, Bravo, Pollard and Gayle. Out of these, the only 2 genuine bowlers are Roach and Benn and to an extent, Sammy. The others cannot be expected to bowl 10 overs every time. If one of their bowlers gets injured (like it happened today), or if 1 or 2 bowlers get the tap, they will struggle to find bowlers to complete 50 overs. Also, I was shocked to see Pollard batting at number 8 today. That was a fundamental mistake, just like Sachin made in the IPL final when he sent Pollard too late to make a difference. If WI play one extra genuine bowler, Pollard will have to bat higher which will only be good for them.
From an India perspective, WI can be definitely beaten, especially because of their brittle mind which causes their batting collapses. But they do have match-winners like Gayle and Pollard, so they can surprise a few teams if they get some monster performances from these two.
Those were my thoughts on two of India’s big opponents in the league phase. Lets hear it from you guys. My next post will be a preview of the India-England game this upcoming weekend, which I will put out in a few hours.