Both AB de Villiers (left) and MS Dhoni are the most crucial players for the two teams © Getty Images
Both AB de Villiers (left) and MS Dhoni are the most crucial players for the two teams © Getty Images

 

India play South Africa in the ICC World T20 2014 semi-final on April 4. Neither team was expected to reach this far before the tournament started. But now they are one win away from a place in the final against Sri Lanka on April 6. Shrikant Shankar highlights some of the key battles in the ICC World T20 2014 semi-final clash.

 

Rohit Sharma vs Albie Morkel

 

Rohit Sharma has been in good touch with the bat for India. He scored 147 runs at an average of 49.00. His strike-rate is 119.51, but he is capable of increasing that considerably. But if the tournament were to end now, not many would remember Rohit for his exploits. This may be the match where he gets remembered   for the right reasons though. Albie Morkel is not the best seam bowler around. He has not been seen fit to bowl more than two overs in any of the matches he has played. Albie does not do much with the ball, so, he becomes easier to score against. Rohit must capitalise on this early, or, he might not get to face him again in the match.

 

Virat Kohli vs Dale Steyn

 

The battle between Dale Steyn (left) and Virat Kohli will be interesting to watch © Getty Images
The battle between Dale Steyn (left) and Virat Kohli will be interesting to watch © Getty Images

 

India‘s best batsman is pitted against South Africa’s best bowler. Some would also say this is a battle between the best batsman and the best bowler in world cricket. Kohli has been India’s leading run-scorer in the tournament with 170 runs.  He has no real weakness and in favourable conditions, he can really make his innings count. Steyn has taken nine wickets for South Africa. He almost single-handedly won them the match against New Zealand. He did get carted a bit against England, but in this format that can happen. Kohli must ensure that trend continues if India are to progress to the final.

Yuvraj Singh vs Imran Tahir

 

Some players are meant to be persisted with. Yuvraj Singh is one of them. He came back to form with the bat against Australia with a supreme 60 off 43 deliveries. He struck five fours and an incredible four sixes. When he is on form, there is no bowler who can get him out. It will be interesting to see his battle against Imran Tahir. Believe it or not, Tahir is South Africa’s leading wicket-taker, not Steyn, with 11 wickets. But Tahir has always suffered against Indian batsmen. It always seems like Indian batsmen treat spinners from subcontinental origins in other teams with utter disdain. England’s Samit Patel, New Zealand’s Ish Sodhi and Tahir himself have come under some severe punishment against Indian batsmen. This could be a key in the semi-final. If the Indian’s do not click with their attacking batsmanship against Tahir, he is capable of taking wickets in bulk. Yuvraj could play a key role as Tahir spins the ball into the left-hander. But his googlies and top-spinners could well do some damage.

 

Yuvraj Singh (left) will have to be at his best while countering Imran Tahir © Getty Images
Yuvraj Singh (left) will have to be at his best, while countering Imran Tahir © Getty Images

 

MS Dhoni vs Faf du Plessis

 

Captain versus captain. MS Dhoni‘s vast experience will be very important against Faf du Plessis. Dhoni has been here before and done it all. For du Plessis, this is uncharted territory. India have won all their four matches comfortably so far. South Africa lost one and just about managed to win the others. India look the better team and have history on their side. South Africa have never won a knockout match in either the 50-over World Cup or the 20-over World Cup. But that trend has to stop and will stop some day. And this is where Dhoni’s experience could help.

 

Ravichandran Ashwin vs Hashim Amla

 

Ravichandran Ashwin has looked a very different bowler to the one who was struggling to take wickets only a few months back. Conditions in Bangladesh obviously favour spinners and Ashwin has made full use of them. He has taken seven wickets at a brilliant economy-rate of 4.76. He came into his own against Australia with four wickets for 11 runs. Ashiwn is no stranger to opening the bowling in T20 cricket. His battle will be against Hashim Amla. The latter has had a great tournament till now. He has scored 163 runs and his strike-rate is an impressive 130.40. Amla is a phenomenal batsman against spin and this should be an interesting contest.

 

Amit Mishra vs AB de Villiers

 

As mentioned earlier, conditions favour spin bowling. There are many finger spinners in tournament, who have done well. But it is the wrist spinners that have excelled. There are three leg-spinners in the top five wicket-takers in the 2014 World T20. Amit Mishra is India’s leading wicket-taker with nine wickets. He has taken wickets against every team and will be hoping to do well against South Africa in a crunch match. Mishra generally comes into bowl in the middle of the opposition’s innings. And here he will be up against AB de Villiers, who is widely considered as the best batsman across formats in world cricket. His magnificent innings of 69 runs from 28 deliveries against England helped South Africa qualify for the semi-final. The duo know each other’s games very well as they have played a lot of IPL. But on April 4, the player who blinks first could end up on the losing note.

 

Bhuvneshwar Kumar vs Quinton de Kock

 

Bhuvneshwar Kumar has only taken three wickets for India in this World T20. But his economy-rate is an extraordinary 4.33. If he maintains such figures against South Africa, he is sure to add a lot of pressure on the batsmen to score the runs in the other overs. Dhoni uses Bhuvneshwar early in the opposition’s innings and that means he will be bowling to South Africa’s new sensation —Quinton de Kock. He was brilliant against India in an One-Day International (ODI) series during the later part of 2013. De Kock’s glove-work has been solid and his main strength is his batting. But he has had a mixed tournament so far. But this could be the right time to get back into form in the competition.

 

ICC World T20 2014 schedule: Match time table with venue details

 

(Shrikant Shankar is a writer/reporter at CricketCountry.com. Previously he has done audio commentary for various matches involving India, Indian Premier League and Champions League Twenty20 for ESPNSTAR.com. You can follow him on Twitter @Shrikant_23)