India had opted to train at the Khan Shaheb Osman Ali stadium at Fatullah at least 40km away from their Friday’s World T20 semifinal venue in Mirpur where they take on South Africa. The word from ICC was India wanted to make use of the full ground and practice under lights. But even before the lights got to its full intensity, the Indians left for the hotel.
The only talking point was whether Yuvraj Singh was fit and available for selection. On Thursday afternoon, the left-hander who had twisted his left ankle during a game of barefoot football and opted out of practice on Wednesday, showed no apparent signs of discomfort while batting. He ran a few yards up and down with physio Nitin Patel looking on for about eight minutes and then with Amit Mishra, took a few catches from fielding coach Trevor Penny.
All this after Yuvraj had tweeted a picture of his bandaged foot at 1.30 on Thursday morning further raising concerns on his fitness. The team’s entire nets session lasted around 90 minutes and all they did was just bowl and bat. They did not even field and generally whenever the team trained here, they have not played football which both skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and R Ashwin said was the lifeline of the team’s high spirits in the dressing room.
India are the only team in this tournament who have qualified for the semifinals with an all win record. And every time Dhoni has interacted with the media, he has reminded everyone of how in Sri Lanka in the last edition of the meet, India had lost just one match and were out of the tournament. India are once again standing at a similar juncture.
Ashwin had compared the conditions here as a tsunami and said it was pointless trying to swim against it. Well, South Africa having played all their league matches in completely different conditions in Chittagong, are up against it. India have played all their matches at Mirpur and all four were at the same time of the evening. So if any team has got the best chance to get used to the pace and bounce of the wicket and how the dew or sometimes the lack of it has altered the course of the game, it’s India.
“It’s a huge thing. The wicket in Mirpur is completely different from the one in Chittagong. From a conditions point of view, they are much more used to them than we are and we have put in some really hard practice on really abrasive surfaces making sure that we almost over-practised against the ball that is turning too much,” South Africa T20 skipper Faf du Plessis said. What every South African batsman has done is take throw downs against balls turning away on the main pitch of the Bangladesh Cricket Academy ground.
There are a few things South Africa can take heart from. They had a great year against India, albeit at home. And their pace battery of Morne Morkel and Dale Styen can be quite a handful if they bowl first as the new ball does tend to dart around initially once the lights are on. Leg-spinner Imran Tahir is the highest wicket-taker in the Super 10s and their batting unit led by AB de Villiers, Quinton de Kock and skipper Du Plessis himself can singlehandedly turn matches on their heads.
But before that, South Africa will have to drive a monkey off their backs, the chokers’ tag. Their last World Cup memory at the venue was a heartbreaking loss to New Zealand in the quarter-final in 2011.