India versus South Africa – A Titanic clash

Yajurvindra Singh

By: Yajurvindra Singh

Email: sunnybilkha@hotmail.com

June 28th  2024:

India and South Africa are the two teams that have come through to the T20 World Cup final 2024 without a scratch. The titanic clash between them on Saturday, June 29 should be a riveting battle as to who will win the title and be crowned the T20 Cricket Champions of the World.

Both the sides have shown superior strength by winning all their matches. The journey for them to the final has had its anxious moments, however, they have emerged with flying colors at the end. South Africa are finally through to the final of an ICC run major tournament. The tag “chokers” that South Africa was embedded with due to several failures, may just be a thing of the past. The word chokers was also creeping into the performance of India and this is now a great opportunity for them as well to put it to rest.

A World Cup tournament should be conducted without a major hitch, with everyone involved satisfied at the end of it. Unfortunately, the ICC T20 World Cup 2024 has had its blemishes. Several of the wickets have been far below the standard one would expect for a tournament of this stature.

The semi-final wicket between South Africa and Afghanistan in Trinidad was terrible, to say the least. The lion-hearted Afghanistan batters were sadly made to confront an explosive South African attack, which, with their limited knowledge, proved to be their demise.

The logistics, travel, and stay at several venues in the US as well as the Caribbean Islands have been a point of concern for cricket lovers visiting as spectators. The seats at the stadiums in the West Indies, even for an Indian game, were not fully occupied. One gathers: schoolchildren were given tickets to the match by the die-hard Indian cricket followers, who were unable to make it because of these logistical problems.

Furthermore, the weather has also played its part in becoming a major dampener. One is impressed with the ground staff and the drainage system of the outfields rainwater-absorbing capabilities; however, the wet conditions have had a major detrimental impact on the wicket conditions in the end. Several of the teams were left to pray to the heavens hoping that the rain gods would stay away and are kind to them.

There has been severe criticism and accusations that India is being favored as a nation at this T20 World Cup. The favourable venues, timings, and travel are a few issues that have emerged. India, does bring in the eye balls that bring in the revenue for the ICC. The cricketing body requires these funds to administer cricket and popularize it around the world. Finally, a team has to perform, and these critics should understand that the Indian team has justified its importance by beating all the sides that they have played against. Furthermore, they stood tall by winning by a substantially large margin against sides like Australia and England.

One was astonished to read of the ball-tampering charges brought against India by a former Pakistan captain. It is a ridiculous and serious accusation for one to make which reeks of a lame loser.

The two teams that have shaken up the cricketing world are the US and the Afghanistan teams. They showed that they can rub shoulders with the best and this should be a wake-up call for the ICC to structure a system that could get the minnow sides to play the established Test playing countries as well. The matches could initially be termed as unofficial ones, similar to what India went through in the early 50s. The visiting cricket sides of a combined Commonwealth X! and sides from Australia toured India to bolster local talent. It was by playing these sides that India grew into a cricketing nation.

One hopes and prays that the wicket in Barbados for the final is well prepared. India and South Africa have sides that are flushed with good pace and spin bowlers. In the batting department, both the sides have players that on their day can destroy opponents. A good wicket that encourages stroke-play would truly be wonderful to watch.

India, similar to South Africa, have just one major concern and that is the batting form of their top opening batters, Virat Kohli and Quinton De Kock. Both are fabulous batsmen and the final could just be the platform for them to shine.

The player who has put fear into the opponents is the Indian pacer, Jasprit Bumrah. One is quite amused that a bowler has become the dreaded weapon and the center point of worry, rather than a batter. It is how the South Africa side perceives Bumrah that will be an important factor in the match. It is truly a remarkable achievement by the Indian pacer to be put on such a high pedestal.

Unfortunately, the team that loses in the final will still be branded as chokers.

Cricket can be an unforgiving sport at the end.

(Yajurvindra Singh is a former India cricketer. The views expressed are personal.)

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