ICC World Twenty20, preview: In-form India face selection woes for semi clash against South Africa
Team India has been in fine form in this edition of ICC World Twenty20. Ahead of their semifinal clash though, there are question mark on key issues - Yuvraj Singh's injury and Shikhar Dhawan's unimpressive form specifically.
They are on a high after four victories on the trot but team combination and injury to Yuvraj Singh will be a worry for India as they go into the second semifinal of the ICC World Twenty20 against a determined South Africa on Friday.
While the Indian team management will be hoping that Yuvraj recovers fully from his ankle injury which he sustained during a football session, selecting the final XI could be a tricky proposition for them. (Also read: Past stats show India firm favourites to win vs SA)
The dilemma facing the Indians is whether to retain Ajinkya Rahane in place of out of form Shikhar Dhawan and Mohit Sharma, who had replaced Mohammed Shami in the last match against Australia.
While Dhawan is known to be destructive batsman, his form has been a big concern which may prompt the team management to retain Rahane. However, if Yuvraj does not recover fully, both Rahane and Dhawan are likely to be in the playing eleven in such a scenario. (Also see: Pics - Team India sweat it out!)
While skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni will wish that senior pro Yuvraj remains fighting fit for the crucial match, the South Africans will be wary of the quality spin attack that they will have to encounter in order to book a berth for the final.
It will be a keenly-fought contest when Virat Kohli's swagger will meet Imran Tahir's guile and Rohit Sharma will try to douse the 'fire' set by Dale Steyn.
If one goes by form in the tournament, India can be termed favourites on paper but a game of Twenty20 can change in a matter of three overs as Pakistan captain Mohammed Hafeez realised it the hard way.
While India have had an all-win record coming into the last-four clash, the South African team won three out of their four games, albeit in a contrasting manner.
India have so far convincingly crushed some of the teams such as Australia, Pakistan and Bangladesh while registering a comfortable win against defending champions West Indies.
South Africa, on the otherhand, have recorded some close victories against New Zealand, The Netherlands and England in their last three games. (Did you know? Shane Warne 'trains' SA spinners before India match)
India would like to move on from their forgettable first two-and-a-half months of 2014 and their opponents would like to shed off their 'chokers' tag in this current ICC event.
It will be a match where Indian spinners will like to re-affirm their dominance on the slow turner at the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium while the AB de Villiers and the Quinton de Kocks would hope to turn the tables on the Indians.
Yuvraj Singh's left ankle injury due to Indian team's adventurous barefoot football will certainly keep Dhoni and coach Duncan Fletcher, a tad worried.
After a few indifferent matches, Yuvraj showed how destructive he can be in the shortest format with his 43-ball-60 against Australia in the last group league encounter.
His experience and ability to perform in big-match situation is invaluable to team's cause and even an 80-percent fit Yuvraj will be an asset for Team India in a vital game.
In case Yuvraj is unable to get fit in time, Rahane will get a chance to cement his place in the T20 side. He scored only 19 during his brief stay at the crease in the last match against Australia but he had looked much more compact than Dhawan.
Dhawan has totalled 31 runs in three games so far with his top score coming in the opening match against Pakistan. Against West Indies and Bangladesh, he looked very scratchy and simply couldn't get the ball off the square.
During the training session though, Dhawan was the first one to pad up and enter the nets but this Indian team's training session at times has not been an indicator as to what is coming next.
Rahane is a technically much more compact player while Dhawan has a destructive ability on his day. It will be only and only Dhoni's call as to who would open the innings alongside Rohit Sharma tomorrow.
The other area of concern will be the pace bowling partner of Bhuvneshwar Kumar. With an economy rate of 4.33 in 12 overs across four matches, the UP lad has shown a lot of control with the new ball. His regular partner Mohammed Shami's bowling has been a weak link as he has an unimpressive economy rate of 8.70 in the three matches he played so far.
While Shami's pace is an asset and Dhoni does have a liking for the Bengal speedster, he is very much aware as to what young Mohit Sharma can bring to the table.
The Haryana seamer got Shane Watson with an off-cutter and looked very much a part during his two overs. However, he has got hit while trying to stop a spanking Ravindra Jadeja shot in his follow-through.
While Mohit and Bhuvneshwar bowl at the same pace and with same variations, the difference that Shami brings to the table is his extra yard of pace.
South Africa's chances will depend a lot on world No 1 fast bowler Steyn's performance. With nine wickets from four matches, Steyn will be certainly extracting more pace and bounce than what is actually on offer on the 22-yards strip of the Mirpur stadium. (Also see: Pics - South Africa have 'special weapon' against India)
But it will certainly be a test for Tahir, who has so far got 11 wickets from his four games at an economy rate of less than seven runs per over.
The Indians did not face any problems while facing Tahir during their Test series in South Africa last year. While a leg-spinner is an attacking option, he can also go for runs and the Indian batting line-up does have the ability to hit Tahir out of the attack.
If Morne Morkel is fit and raring to go, then one among Beuran Hendricks and Wayne Parnell will have to make way. South Africa's batting will depend a lot on how their premier batsman AB de Villiers plays.
De Villiers has the ability to decimate any attacks and he has done that consistently in IPL and also for South Africa. Indians will certainly be wary of him. Not to forget that regular skipper Faf du Plessis is fighting against time to get fit for the match.
Quinton de Kock's hat-trick of ODI centuries will also be fresh in Dhoni's mind as he tries to ensure that South Africans 'stick' to their 'Chokers' tag.
Teams (from) :
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (C), 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 (C), Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock, 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.
Match starts at 6:30pm (IST).