The second semi final of the ICC World T20 2014 pits India, one of the firm favorites following its displays in the Super 10s, against South Africa, a team which has ascended to this stage after some fighting displays in the group stages.
Form: As of now, India is enjoying a golden run of sorts. It has been able to methodically dismantle all its opponents till now and much of this has happened because Dhoni has been winning the tosses, putting the opposition in and the spinners have been bowling exceptionally well followed by stellar displays by the batters. It has all followed a pattern. South Africa, on the other hand, has had to fight hard in its group stages. This suggests that they may struggle but on the flipside they may have also gotten tougher from a mental point of view.
First eleven: India played its final match in the group league against Australia and made some changes to the team that had taken it to the semis. So it may be expected that the players who were left out in that game could come back to the team for the semis. Rahane did not exactly set the Padma alight with his performance so there is a good chance that he will be left out in favor of Dhawan. On the other hand there is a possibility that if Yuvraj, who is slightly injured, may not play in the match. In that case the Mumbai batsman will get a look-in in the side. Mohit Sharma, who came into the side for that match instead of Shami, bowled well in 2 overs giving away only 11 runs and also picking up a wicket. So Dhoni may be a little pressed to have him in the team instead of the premier fast bowler, Shami, who has been leaking runs. In all probability, however, the Indian first eleven for this game could look like this:
Shikhar Dhawan/Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Amit Mishra and Mohammad Shami/Mohit Sharma.
On the other hand, South Africa should make at least one change in the team – Morne Morkel should come back into the team instead of Beuran Hendricks who has been leaking a lot of runs. A world level tournament is no place to expose a young cricketer no matter how talented or successful he or she is but the South African selectors seemed to have forgotten it. Their decision to leave out Ryan McLaren, who has been the highest wicket taker for them in limited overs cricket is one of the biggest mysteries. Moreover, Morkel is a class bowler and with his extra pace and bounce will trouble anyone on any wicket, especially Indians who do not like the ball coming at their noses or throats. Skipper Faf du Plessis should also come back for this game. This is how the South African first XI should look for this game:
Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock, AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis, JP Duminy, David Miller, Albie Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, and Imran Tahir.
Importance of the match: For India this game would take the team another step to the finals. The team would be eager to prove that 2007 was no fluke but for that to happen it needs to win the tournament and this game could be a stepping stone to that achievement. The reasons for South Africa are similar and greater is the importance considering the fact that the team has not won any major ICC trophy since the 1998 Knockout Trophy.
Issues for the teams: The major threat for South Africa at this point in time would be countering the threat posed by the Indian spinners considering the batsmen are not really adept at playing this form of bowling. They will also need to adjust to the slow and low wickets of Dhaka after playing in Chittagong where the wickets were harder and bouncier and thus more conducive to their style of play.
For India, the major threat will be countering the South African quickies. More than that, they need to be mentally and technically prepared to face the challenge of batting first should MS Dhoni lose the toss, something that has not happened till now. However, one could also see the Indian skipper, emboldened by the form of his spinners, overall conditions and the reputation of the Proteas as chasers, choose to bat first upon winning the toss.