This weekend's game is a big one in the World Cup and for both the teams involved. India plays SA at Nagpur. It promises to be a cracker, 2 of the top teams playing in batsmen-friendly conditions in front of a huge crowd. Lets look at a few things about the game and the teams.
Indian team selection
Ashwin needs to play in this game. I mentioned in my post after the Netherlands game that playing Piyush against the strong SA lineup could be expensive for India. Also, I had mentioned 2 reasons why I think Piyush was preferred over Ashwin till this time. There is an article on Cricinfo by Sharda Ugra and that also mentions the reasons I gave for this. If Dhoni really reckons Ashwin is his big-match player, then Ashwin should play this game since this is about as big as it gets for India in this WC. If Ashwin plays, he should get the new ball. With his variations and a hard new ball in hand, he could get us an early wicket. If he can get Amla, that would be one big obstacle removed for India.
Another change from the previous game would most likely be the return of Munaf in place of Nehra. Ashish did not have a bad game, but Munaf definitely is a better bet, especially since he is bowling well at the moment.
SA team selection
I think they are going to play Tsotsobe in place of Tahir. Tahir has broken his left thumb, and though it is not his bowling hand, I think they will choose to rest him for this match. Also they seem to believe that Tsotsobe has the handle on the Indian batsmen given his performance in SA before this WC. But, in my opinion, it could work to India's advantage, since Tsotsobe will not be near the force he was in SA, in Indian conditions. So I would be happy if Tsotsobe plays.
As I said, India should look to open with Ashwin and take early wickets. The danger men for India are Amla and De Villiers. Kallis and Smith are very good too, but Kallis has not been the same player since he came back from injury and Smith has a weakness against Zaheer, which I am hoping Zak will exploit and pick him up early.
SA's lower middle order looks a little vulnerable after De Villiers. There is Duminy, but I believe he can be controlled and taken out with good spin bowling. The others like Du Plessis and the allrounders Peterson and Morne Van Wyk dont look too threatening in my opinion. So India should look to get past De Villiers as that could put pressure on the SA lower middle order.
Regarding Indian batting, India did not play a full strength batting side in SA, so it should be a more even contest between this full Indian batting lineup and the SA bowling.
Nagpur is a pretty flat track, so we could see a high scoring game. In my opinon, India should win the toss and bat first. The main reason for this is to minimize the threat of Dale Steyn with the new ball under lights. I want to see Steyn and the other bowlers against the Indian batsmen in the afternoon session with little or no help from the conditions. That would make India slight favorites in this match.
If India bat first, I would back India to win this game. If they bowl first, it would be 50-50 or maybe 55-45 in favor of SA.
For India, my pick is Harbhajan. The reason for this is the fact that Bhajji has not done much in this WC so far and he is a big-match player. I expect him to take a few wickets in this game. With the bat, it could be any of the top 7, so I am not going to make a prediction there.
For SA, my pick is De Villiers with the bat. With the ball, Steyn is the obvious threat. Morkel will not be the dangerous bowler in Indian conditions, that he was in SA.
So tell me what you think. I am enjoying writing these pieces, I hope you all are having a good time reading them.
Lets hope for a good game and an Indian win. My next post will be after the India-SA game, so stay tuned.