India clashes against the Proteas
After all the fuss over Afghanistan dies down, India's campaign will begin in right earnest. The advantage the team has is that the win over the minnows in the opening match gives them cushion in the first round. India now need not worry about their South Africa clash on Sunday.
For a team that plays under pressure all year, the chance to just go out on the field and express themselves will be very welcome. For the Proteas, though, the reverse is applicable, given that they open with a game against an Indian team high on confidence.
Graeme Smith is an articulate and thoughtful captain, but even he could not find appropriate ways to brush aside concerns that his team were in prime position to perform their latest rendition of the “choke.”
“The time has always come (to put the record straight on choking), you know,” said Smith. “Every one of these tournaments, each team arriving here is trying to win the tournament. The nature of the Twenty20 tournament is that the teams are so close together, it's such small margins that make the difference at the end of the day.”
The last time these two teams played each other in a major T20 match was in Nottingham in the 2009 World T20, on a sluggish deck that took more spin than anyone anticipated. The pairing of Johan Botha and Roelof van der Merwe comfortably out-bowled their Indian counterparts. Obviously that was still fresh in Smith's mind as the teams got set to play on another pitch that is expected to help spinners. “It is an option to play two spinners, but it is also what we left ourselves with (in the warm-ups) with the decisions to rest players. It was really the only option we had in those games but it is something we will conside,” explained Smith. “Most of the wickets seem to be a little bit slower and taking a bit of spin. Our options are open.”
In contrast, Mahendra Singh Dhoni was almost irritated when his mind was taken back to the loss to South Africa in the last T20 World Cup. “Sometimes people force you to think about these things, but it doesn't really work that way,” said Dhoni. “If you look at it like that, staying in the past, we should have never won the T20 World Cup in 2007 after we just lost the 50-over World Cup.”
With back-to-back matches there's little time for this Indian team to pace their preparations. Perhaps that's why Dhoni insists that his team should “stay in the present” and think merely about the next game. It's not the worst strategy, and it gives the team the best possible chance of succeeding.