The stakes are high for today’s league match between India and South Africa with both teams facing a must win situation to qualify for the semi-finals.
Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers, apart from being the captain and best batsmen of their respective sides, are two men with a lot of respect and admiration for each other. So to see them both leading their side out against each other in a must-win encounter on Sunday will be an interesting prospect even for the neutrals.
The stakes couldn’t get higher than this and both men know the importance of this game in their career as captain. For Virat Kohli, it is a chance to take India into the knock-outs in his first big ICC Tournament in-charge — an opportunity that he would want his team to grasp with both hands. On the other hand, for AB de Villiers, it is a chance to keep alive the great South African dream of winning a global trophy at last, for he is the torch-bearer of a golden generation.
The loss to Sri Lanka might not lead to wholesale changes in the Indian team but one change that is most likely to take place is the entry of Ravichandran Ashwin into the playing XI. Notwithstanding the fact that South Africa has a number of left-handers in their team and Ashwin’s great record against them, the off-spinner’s inclusion is a must keeping in mind the variety that he brings along with himself.
Ashwin hasn’t often been part of India’s scheme of things in ODI cricket outside the sub-continent, but Virat Kohli and Team India will do well to consider his big match pedigree and match winning skills before finalising the eleven against the Proteas.
The form of captains coming into the match is also under the spotlight, with both men failing to open their account in the losses in their respective last clashes. While Kohli did get runs under his belt in the opener against Pakistan, AB de Villiers has been struggling for a while now.
India looks all set to bring Ravichandran Ashwin into the playing XI. But the question remains in place of whom. South Africa has a strong bowling attack, and the lack of swing in something which might not trouble them as the likes of Kagiso Rabada and Morne Morkel rely more on movement off the pitch.
The Indian batsmen were seen slogging it out in the nets, practicing the pull shot a lot as the Protea pace-men are likely to pepper the Indians with the short stuff. In these conditions, dropping a batsman, Kedar Jadhav, to bring in Ashwin might not be an easy option.
South Africa have a settled line-up and are expected to go in unchanged. Although the fact that AB de Villiers expects Ashwin to play, might lead them to think of playing the right-handed Farhaan Behardien in place of JP Duminy.