Tuesday 4 June 2019

India vs. South Africa, ICC Cricket World Cup 2019: Preview, Predictions, Key Players, Strategies, Match-Ups & Everything Else

Virat Kohli and Faf Du Pless Ahead of India vs South Africa ICC Cricket World Cup 2019

Once more into the breach, dear friends?

At the onset of yet another Indian World Cup campaign (for anyone doubting where my loyalties lie), there is hope like never before. Sure, there was hope in 2011 as well but this time there is a formidable bowling line-up that doesn't include Sreesanth.

In the other corner is South Africa, a team that is bruised by the conspicuous void left by AB de Villiers, injuries to Dale Steyn, Hashim Amla and Lungi Ngidi and their perennial failures at major tournaments.

On paper, predictions seem easy. But it wouldn't hurt to inject some analysis to spice it up?

Match-Ups & Possible Strategies

Lungi Ngidi vs. Shikhar Dhawan*
Lungi Ngidi vs Shikhar Dhawan in India vs South Africa ICC Cricket World Cup 2019
Ngidi vs. Dhawan: Target Zone (from a right-handed batsman's perspective)

Delivery type: cross-seam
Target dismissal: caught by keeper, slip or at gully

  • Expect Ngidi to target the good-length area on the fifth stump line to Dhawan. 
  • This would play into Dhawan's natural instinct to dominate all deliveries on the off, but leave him cramped for room. 
  • Ngidi generates extra bounce which has often troubled Dhawan. (refer similar dismissals with Oshane Thomas)
*This analysis was written before Lungi Ngidi got injured in the match against Bangladesh. I have left it intact as there is a slight chance that it might be implemented by Chris Morris instead, but slightly shorter (back of length & short, instead of length & back of length). 

My gut instinct, however, is that in the absence of Ngidi it is Shikhar Dhawan's day to shine. 

*cue in thigh slap*

Kagiso Rabada vs. Rohit Sharma 
  • Rabada to bowl full in-swingers to Rohit to capitalise on his chronic weakness (refer similar dismissals with Mohammad Amir).
  • Rohit extremely susceptible if India bats first under a cloud cover, slightly less but still at risk if chasing during the first five overs of the new ball. 
Kagiso Rabada vs Rohit Sharma in India vs South Africa ICC Cricket World Cup 2019
Rabada vs. Rohit: Target Zone

Delivery Type: In-swingers
Target Dismissal: LBW or bowled

Kagiso Rabada vs. Virat Kohli
  • Rabada to consistently bowl short to Kohli, with surprise yorkers in between (refer all matches on India's tour of South Africa in 2018).
  • Kohli would attempt to dominate. The execution of this plan would be an important moment (as with all things Kohli) in this match
  • The execution of this plan would also depend on the timing of Kohli's entry - if India's skipper walks out within the first 5 overs then the initial plan might be to bowl good length at the fourth & fifth stump.

Kagiso Rabada vs Virat Kohli in India vs South Africa ICC Cricket World Cup 2019
Rabada vs. Kohli: Target Zone

Delivery Type: Short
Target Dismissal: Caught (Deep Fine Leg, Long Leg, Square Leg)

South African batsmen vs. Kuldeep & Chahal 

  • Unless the batsmen have worked out a clear plan on picking the variations, expect SA to either go very hard or very cautious against the Indian leggies. 
  • Higher chance of the cautious approach due to the weakness of the SA batting order. In this scenario, Bhuvneshwar Kumar/Mohammed Shami, Hardik Pandya and Kedar Jadhav/Ravindra Jadeja will be the bowlers they will target
  • If Chahal is targeted, expect him to bowl extremely wide on a fuller length.
  • Should the batsmen be successful in combating the wide tactic, Chahal to continue bowling wide but pull his length back slightly with some pace off for a bigger dip
Kagiso Rabada vs Virat Kohli in India vs South Africa ICC Cricket World Cup 2019
Chahal's Defensive Mechanism

Delivery Type: Off-spin, full, wide, slow dippers
Target Dismissal: Stumped, Caught at Long Off or Deep Extra Cover, Cover

Note: All of these match-ups have stronger potency if India bats first, as this would pit India's batting against South Africa's bowling under slightly more favourable conditions for bowling. It would also play into SA's history of choking messing up chases, which would be keenly exploited by the Indian spinners under the hawk-like supervision of MS Dhoni. 

Key Players

1. Kedar Jadhav

Kedar Jadhav in India vs South Africa ICC Cricket World Cup 2019

The South African batsmen would mainly look to target the fifth bowler, the role of which should primarily be filled by Jadhav for this match as I do not expect Hardik Pandya to pose a threat. Expect Jadhav's unique action, delivery trajectory and MSD's advice to play a pivotal role. His threat would be magnified against the left-handed batsmen (QDK, Miller, JP Duminy).

Having said that, Ravindra Jadeja will most likely take Jadhav's spot due to a strong showing in the warm-ups, which I personally feel might be a mistake for this match.

2. Shikhar Dhawan

Shikhar Dhawan in India vs South Africa, ICC Cricket World Cup 2019

Should Dhawan manage to curb his instincts initially against Rabada and avoid inside edges into his stumps, the stars are aligned for a Shikhar special in yet another ICC tournament. In the absence of the real stylistic threat in Lungi Ngidi, the only person standing in Dhawan's way tomorrow is his own ego.

3. Quinton de Kock

Quinton de Kock in India vs. South Africa ICC Cricket World Cup 2019

QDK is the biggest threat to India, as he remains the only player in the line-up who can truly take the game away. If India open with Bhuvaneshwar or Shami to QDK, expect carnage up front. Kuldeep will be the key bowler as he would turn it away from de Kock. Since Kuldeep does not bowl in the power-plays this battle would be delayed - by which point QDK might be off to a good start.

4. Rassie van der Dussen

Rassie van der Dussen in India vs. South Africa ICC Cricket World Cup 2019

Prodigious talent that is relatively unheard of has been India's bane for the longest time. (refer: ABD, QDK, Sam Curran, Michael Clarke, Ajantha Mendis, Ashton Turner, Lendl Simmons, Heinrich Klaasen). I would expect the same from the bowling think tank, who would extensively plan for Faf du Plessis, David Miller, the mighty Hash and Quinton de Kock but underestimate the batsmen to follow.

Bonus Mention: MS Dhoni's strategic consultancy during the middle overs while the Indian spinners are in action might be his most important contribution in this match, above his batting or keeping.


Possible Indian XI: 1. Rohit Sharma, 2. Shikhar Dhawan, 3. Virat Kohli (c), 4. KL Rahul 5. MS Dhoni (wk), 6. Hardik Pandya, 7. Ravindra Jadeja (hope it's Jadhav though), 8. Kuldeep Yada,. 9. Mohammed Shami, 10. Yuzvendra Chahal, 11. Jasprit Bumrah

Possible South Africa XI: 1. Quinton de Kock, 2. Hashim Amla, 3. Aiden Markram, 4. Faf du Plessis, 5. David Miller/Rassie van der Dussen, 6. JP Duminy, 7. Chris Morris/Andile Phehlukwayo, 8. Dwaine Pretorius, 9. Kagiso Rabada 10. Imran Tahir, 11. Tabraiz Shamsi

With a forecasted cloud cover, the toss will be crucial. Both teams would be looking to bowl first to exploit the conditions, however, South Africa has already messed up two chases which would definitely play on their minds.

Should India bowl first, I would predict a comfortable victory for the team in blue. However, if the roles are reversed the match would get much tighter. The key players and strategies discussed above might come into play in determining the victor.

If you found this analysis a bit too comprehensive, never forget this signboard I found outside the dressing room in an old college cricket ground in Cambridgeshire:

* * *
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