Posted on: April 3, 2014
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India Vs South Africa, 2nd Semi Final T20I Match of T20 World Cup 2014

By Asfak Patel

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India Vs South Africa, 2nd Semi Final T20I Match of T20 World Cup 2014

Three years and two days after lifting the World Cup at the Wankhede Stadium, India are on the cusp of winning the T20 WC, as they prepare to take on South Africa in the second semi-final of the tournament in Dhaka on Friday.

Much water has passed under the bridge since MS Dhoni's iconic six helped India become the first Asian team to win the World Cup twice in the night of April 2, 2011. The team has been exposed outside subcontinental conditions - their spate of losses in England, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand have only been countered by thumping victories at home against the West Indies and Australia, but the lost series to England at the end of 2012 underlined everything that was wrong with Indian cricket.

The odds, when India go to battle against the foes, will be highly in favour of Dhoni & Co., but in the shortest format of the game, even the bravest would shudder to call on the favourites.

Preview India

It has been a dream tournament so far for the blue brigade. After some scathing criticism for their performance, India's bowlers rose to the challenge and delivered some sensational spells, triggering panic and collapses in the ranks of strong T20 line-ups - Pakistan, West Indies and Australia were made to look mediocre against the combined guile of Mishra and Ashwin. Ravindra Jadeja too chipped in with his share of wickets and his expensive economy rate did not even make a difference, thanks to his more senior spin colleagues.

The batting has been solid but untested so far, barring a brief spell against Australia, when Yuvraj and Dhoni steered the side out of choppy waters. Rohit has been reasonably consistent, Kohli has been enigmatic, Dhoni has shown he belongs to the international level, with or without enough match practice, while Yuvraj's welcome return to the form has been warmly acknowledged by the captain.

Suresh Raina did promise a very different self before the T20 WC got underway and he has lived up to his words so far. The only cause for concern is the form of Shikhar Dhawan, who made way for Ajinkya Rahane in the dead rubber against Australia. Everything indicates to a return in the playing XI for the Delhi southpaw, while Rahane will be unlucky to miss out again.

However, there could still be a silver lining for the stylish Mumbai batsman. Yuvraj Singh had injured himself in a game of football on Wednesday and was seen with a bandage around his ankle as he limped off the ground. The team officially insists that the player-of-the-tournament in the 2011 World Cup will be available for selection on Friday, but the incident has left many to wonder the need for such prolonged football games, barefooted no less, in the middle of such an important event.

Barring that injury scare and Dhawan's indifferent form, India have looked like the team to beat this tournament. The team is working like a well-oiled machine, with all their departments in sync with the other and moreover, the conditions in Dhaka seem tailor-made for them.

Preview South Africa

Chokers. How long will the team continue to choke in the face of big challenges, South African fans must often wonder. All through their history, the Proteas have failed to cross major hurdles and consequently have never laid hands on a World Cup of any kind. Back in 2007, when the inaugural T20 WC was played in their own backyard, they went down to India and out of the tournament before the last-four began.

But this time, things could be a little different. It's a new age South African side that has paved its way to the semi-finals, after tight wins against New Zealand and Netherlands and a relatively comfortable defence against England. They have in their ranks some of the most dangerous players in world cricket - players who can exploit any conditions in any format.

The likes of Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis and JP Duminy spread fears across many bowling attacks while the threat of Dale Steyn always looms large. Not known to produce world class spinners, the Proteas have in their midst Imran Tahir, who has adapted to the conditions beautifully, and will be charged up to show his mettle against India, especially after a stint with Shane Warne at the nets.

The South Africans are geared up and make no mistake, they will be wary of India's spin threat. They know their opponents have mastered these conditions and are better at exploiting the slow nature of the pitch. But South Africa are not completely alien to the mysteries of the subcontinent. So many of their players play in the IPL that it would be a bad excuse, if South Africa collapse on Friday, without a semblance of fight.

Squads

India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain and wicketkeeper), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Mohit Sharma, Stuart Binny, Ajinkya Rahane, Amit Mishra and Varun Aaron.

South Africa: Faf du Plessis (captain), Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock (wicketkeeper, AB de Villiers, Farhan Behardien, JP Duminy, David Miller, Albie Morkel, Morne Morkel, Dale Steyn, Imran Tahir, Beuran Hendricks, Wayne Parnell, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Aaron Phangiso.

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