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Finally, a contest worth watching

cricket Updated: Feb 24, 2011 01:49 IST
Subhash Rajta
Subhash Rajta
Hindustan Times
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When South Africa take on the West Indies in the World Cup on Thursday, the tournament should finally end the sequence so far of big teams taking on rank outsiders that has allowed them to make the desired start to their campaign.

Windies in the lurch

And for a stranger to the game, two-time former champions taking on perhaps the strongest team still aiming to win their maiden title should appear to be a mouth-watering prospect. However, a glance at the form and ranking of the teams is enough to make one wonder whether the contest would be evenly matched.

The Windies are probably going through their worst phase — they haven’t won a game against a major team in their last 25 matches, and have lost their last ten matches against South Africa. That they also lost both their warm-up games show they are yet to fix some problems. As for the ICC rankings, they are below Bangladesh.

Proteas on a high

South Africa, on the other hand, are brimming with confidence. They came into the World Cup on the back of two ODI series wins, against Pakistan and India, and then won their two warm-up games comprehensively; the final one a one-sided affair against Australia. So, there's little to suggest that the West Indies could even stretch the Proteas. Still, South Africa can take their rivals lightly at their peril. Graeme Smith, the Proteas skipper, spelt out the reason. “They haven’t been as good as other teams in terms of consistency, but they have match winners and that’s what makes them dangerous,” he said.

The fear factor

Chris Gayle is the man South Africans would fear the most. The left-handed opener can tear apart any bowling attack. Kieron Pollard is another big hitter. However, South Africa boast of one of the most balanced attacks. “We have got lot of options with three frontline spinners and pacers. We just have to pick our best possible team for a given day," said Smith.

Mystery wicket

Picking the final XI for today’s match could be a bit of a headache for both the teams as the Kotla track is an unknown commodity. Prepared afresh after the venue was banned by the International Cricket Council (ICC) after an India-Sri Lanka ODI in December 2009 had to be abandoned due to a dubious pitch, it will be interesting to see who reads the wicket correctly.