The time has arrived to attempt the final ascent in the World Cup, and everyone agrees that the semifinal spots have been secured by the four best teams in the tournament.
With the pressure mounting ahead of the two semifinals — New Zealand take on South Africa on Tuesday and India face Australia on Thursday — all eyes will be on how the high-profile skippers steer their sides. Brendon McCullum will have to atone for New Zealand’s semifinal losses on six previous occasions. Nothing will taste sweeter for his compatriots than upstaging their trans-Tasman rivals Australia and it will be a personal triumph for someone who is so mild-mannered off the pitch as he is destructive on it.
The manner in which Michael Clarke has overcome serious injury to lead the four-time champions shows the burning desire of Australia’s successor to Ricky Ponting in every sense of the term. Uncertainty caused by a body which has increasingly refused to cooperate, questions whether he should move aside and let Steve Smith take over and the testy relationship with coach Darren Lehmann, the man who announced it was time for him to step aside after Clarke’s sensational 2004 Test debut in Bangalore. Winning will be par for the course for Australia, but anything less will hurt the legacy of this sensational batsman and captain.
All praise as world cricket’s most valuable player would mean little for AB de Villiers if South Africa don’t chuck away the chokers tag and go all the way. De Villiers’ calm demeanor and stunning attacking skills with the bat as well as a bunch of consultants have all helped the Proteas stay calmer. The endless wait means a triumph would have almost as big a social impact in a nation of fragile racial equations as the rugby team’s 1995 win had.
MS Dhoni has been there and done it, going from the World T20 triumph on captaincy debut to the 2011 World Cup and the Champions Trophy two years later. He is arguably the best one-day captain in the world and his pro-active approach is evident in India’s unbeaten run to the semis. There has been plenty of distractions for Dhoni in the build-up. With whispers that he could quit the game after this World Cup, victory would crown Dhoni as the greatest Indian cricketer.