On Sunday, expect Pakistanis to pray for India’s win over SA
Players of Indian Cricket team

Guwahati: On a high after two successive wins in as many outings, Group 2 toppers India will look to inch closer to sealing their T20 World Cup semifinal berth when they take on second-ranked South Africa at the Optus Stadium in Perth on Sunday. But more than that, it’s Pakistan players who will be taking a keen interest in the contest’s outcome.

Here’s why! 

A victory for India will keep Pakistan alive in the tournament, which means Rohit Sharma and Co will be in the prayers of an extra 22 crore people from across the fence, along with 139 cr Indians! Tottering in fifth place in the Group 2 table after suffering losses to India and Zimbabwe, Pakistan has three must-win games ahead, but they will also need to depend on the outcome of other matches to advance to the knockouts. On Friday, EastMojo explained the mathematics behind Pakistan’s interest in Sunday’s clash.

Coming back to Sunday’s game, this will be India’s first-ever outing at the new stadium with a pitch identical to the iconic WACA ground across the Swan river that boasts of the fastest wicket in Australia, and perhaps the world. While the dimensions of the Optus stadium are huge and six-hitting will demand some effort, the pitch appears good for batting with an average first innings score of 157. However, all three games of the T20 World Cup have been low-scoring affairs so far, barring local lad Marcus Stoinis’ 18-ball 59 to floor Sri Lanka.

With bleak clouds hovering over the stadium but hardly any threat of rain, it could well be a good test between the quicks and batters from either side on Sunday.

South African pacer Kagiso Rabada finds the nature of the track similar to the ones back home, and with the high bounce on offer, he, alongside Anrich Nortje and Lungi Ngidi, has it in them to make the batters dance to their tunes. “We see ourselves as one of the best pace attacks there is, so we’ll back ourselves against any team. We’ve got a great variety, covering a lot of bases. We’ve got two gun spinners as well,” Nortje said in the pre-match presser.

In the same breath, the pacer also revealed the team’s intent of sticking to the basics. “There’s lots of pace and bounce. We are going to identify what is a good line and length and stick to that. Try not to do anything too fancy. Try to stick to our basics…restrict runs as much as possible. As basic as we can be,” Nortje said.

Similarly, from an Indian perspective, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami and Arshdeep Singh could form a lethal trio if they manage to use the conditions well. “We need to play normal fearless cricket and not think that we are facing Rabada and Nortje on a bouncy track. We also have Bhuvi, Shami and Arshdeep. The main difference between the Indian and Australian wickets is bounce, so we’ll plan accordingly,” left-arm spinner Axar Patel said.

As far as head-to-head stats between the two teams are concerned, India and South Africa have locked horns on 23 occasions in the shortest format, with the men-in-blue winning 13 games against the Proteas’ 9 with one match yielding no result.

A bit of T20 World Cup trivia that would please Indian fans: Team India enjoys 80 per cent success in the showpiece meet, winning four out of the five matches over the South Africans.

Coming back to Sunday’s affair, India had less than 48 hours to prepare themselves for the game in Perth, three hours behind the usual Aussie time zone, and 3,000 km away from Sydney, where the team played against the Netherlands on Thursday. Similarly, the Proteas took an early morning flight from Sydney after humiliating Bangladesh by 104 runs on the same day.

Thankfully, the Indian team management’s decision to spend almost a week, playing warm-up matches in Perth in the build-up to the World Cup, could come in handy for the players on Sunday. 

While the men-in-blue isn’t in favour of a chop-and-change approach, KL Rahul’s dismal outings in the first two games could tempt Rohit Sharma to bring in Deepak Hooda or Rishabh Pant and strengthen the lower middle order. Also, Hooda’s off-spin could be the preferred second option along with Ravichandran Ashwin against a left-hand-heavy Proteas side. In that case, Axar could be rested.

On the other hand, the Africans will be desperately hoping for their captain Temba Bavuma to shed off the rust from his bat, despite Quinton de Kock and Rilee Rossouw making it up more often than not. Ever since his return to South African colours after six years, during which he took up a Kolpak deal to play county cricket in England, Rilee has been on song bringing up his second successive century alongside a 96, in just seven innings and the Proteas will hope for the southpaw to continue in the same vein to upstage India from the top spot in Group 2.

Also Read | T20 WC: Why is ‘Mr Bean’ trending after Zimbabwe’s win over Pak?

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