Few would have imagined that the two who lifted the Border-Gavaskar Trophy together in Nagpur last November would cross swords in Johannesburg on Saturday. Anil Kumble was the outgoing captain, handing over the reins to M.S. Dhoni after they led India in two Tests each in that series against Australia.
In the days of instant cricket where things happen too fast, that fateful day seems years ago. It was said then that Kumble’s captaincy was obsolete and Dhoni knew the new-age mantra. In a matter of a few weeks in South Africa, Kumble has pulled a team from the rut to set up a clash with his successor. You can’t fault T20 or IPL for not producing dramatic situations.
This is going to be different from the ones seen earlier. Here is one man who takes prompt decisions. So far in Dhoni’s brief stint as leader in big-time cricket, most of them have worked. He will face a man who is not famous for making quick moves but who never shies from a fight, a spirit he seems to have injected into his teammates who are in the semi-finals after winning seven of the last nine matches.
There are many more elements promising a good contest. There is a fit-again Matthew Hayden, Suresh Raina and Dhoni promising fireworks against an attack which doesn’t have as many big names but can be effective. Some teams with illustrious names have not-so-fond memories of that.
The Super Kings don’t look as balanced in bowling and it has troubled them despite their run up to the semi-finals. An extra spinner, R. Ashwin, did the trick in the last match but there is no certainty that the ploy will always work. Kumble’s batting has a queer mix of young and old and in Ross Taylor, there is a potential trump card provided they don’t lose early wickets.
The worry for the Challengers is the fitness of Jacques Kallis. Given the balance of this team, he is as big a figure as he actually is and the side strain he has been suffering from doesn’t augur well. On the positive side, there is a faint chance that Dale Steyn would recover from his shin injury.
This scrutiny of personnel can go on and on. What will matter in the end is how they are marshalled on the field and the captains might have a big role to play. One looks calm come what may and the other has the reputation of getting a grip on things when they don’t go well. It can never get dull when they face each other.