India take on SA in crucial tie

India take on SA in crucial tie

India take on SA in crucial tie

Something’s got to give when powerhouses India and South Africa lock horns in a winner-takes-all Champions Trophy Group B encounter here on Sunday.

South Africa, the No 1 ODI side in the world, and India, ranked third, were actually tipped as the  favourites to make the cut for the semifinals and the clash between each other at the Oval was supposed to determine where they would travel for the knock-out game. But thanks to the shock reversals they suffered in their respective previous games, only the victors can extend their stay in England post Sunday.

India will be kicking themselves for letting slip a great opportunity against Sri Lanka that has left them in this tight spot. However, if there is one character this Indian team has displayed emphatically under the leadership of Virat Kohli, it’s their never-say-die attitude.

From the time Kohli first assumed charge of the Test team in Australia in 2014, the fighting spirit and the belief to overcome any dire situation has become the hallmark of his wards. While they eventually lost the Test series, the audacity they displayed saw almost everyone heap praise on the team.

Even in Sri Lanka in 2015, the Indians lost the opening Test at Galle in a shocking manner but they bounced back strongly to win the next two Tests to claim a historic 2-1 win. England ran them ragged in the opening Test match last home season, Australia beat them at their own game in Pune — also first Test — but in both instances they fought back brilliantly to register amazing triumphs.

Although some personnel have changed for ODIs, the character of the side remains the same and the Indians will be determined to take the fight to the South Africans, against whom they’ve never lost in the Champions Trophy in three clashes.

Post Thursday’s defeat, the management should think about playing ace off-spinner R Ashwin considering the Proteas have three left-handers in their line-up and the struggle they’ve had in facing him. Ashwin also brings in extra security for Kohli if the other spinner Ravindra Jadeja has an off day or one of the pacers don’t find their range. But if Ashwin is picked, they mostly will have to sacrifice either Hardik Pandya or Kedar Jadhav. Their batting is useful but there are no worries in the department with all the batsmen amongst the runs but the Indians will have to pull up their socks on the field that has been patchy so far.

The Men In Blue will also be wary of South Africa who are desperate to win a major ICC event and shed the chokers’ tag that refuses to leave them. Barring the 1998 ICC KnockOut Trophy triumph in Bangladesh, the Proteas have failed in all the other ICC events, losing at times from a position of strength. Skipper A B de Villiers stressed even before the tournament that his team is desperate to win this event to show they are not like their predecessors and can seize the big moments in crunch matches.

Like India, the Proteas also have a side oozing with class in the batting department and potency in the bowling attack. The likes of Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis, de Villiers, David Miller and J P Duminy can cause headaches to any captain but one name Kohli will be worried is Quinton de Kock. The left-hander has hammered five centuries in nine matches against India and if the wicketkeeper gets going at the top then India could be in serious trouble.

The forecast for the game is bright sunshine but it can rain anytime in this part of the world, upsetting the plans of either captains. In case of a washout, India will advance, thanks to their superior run-rate.

India and South Africa, though, would want to settle the issue on the field.