India V South Africa - Mauka, the preview
There are few things in life whose importance is made to realize by telling you repeatedly that they exists. Ah, wives do that beautifully. Don’t they? You know what I mean.
But in these two holy months of February 2015 and March 2015 – when the greatest sporting carnival of cricketing world takes place, I wouldn't be talking anything else on Fultoo Bakar than cricket.
While I clearly remember how many matches we had won against Pakistan in world cups, their scores, their locations, their MOMs and almost everything about those matches, unless a friend reminded me I hadn’t noticed we have never beaten SA in a world cup.
But then, when have we beaten SA. Not very often.
Even when we won our first series against them by a victory margin of 2-1, it could well have been 2-1 in their favor had one of their fielders not missed hitting the stumps direct. But for Sachin Tendulkar’s master class undoing the threat of Alan Donald’s merciless super fast bowling, we had no chance of winning the first match in Calcutta. Oh yes, it was Calcutta back then. While we won next match convincingly, we lost the last match in Delhi’s Nehru stadium comprehensively.
1992 world cup match against SA was a mere formality for us – we were already out of the tournament. SA needed to win to go past first stage. It was a crucial match for them. They easily chased down 180 in this rain curtailed 30 over match. They weren't familiar to THE term back then. It was later years when they learned and taught the world about this word – choking.
We did win a few ODIs here and there against them. But the biggest victory came against them in a match where SA showed glimpses of future. Chasing 195 against India, they succumbed to Tendulkar’s innocuous looking bowling in last over when they needed 6 to win and could score just 3 – hero cup.
Come 1999 world cup and the defeated us in a league match. But they choked perfectly later in the tournament.
Their supremacy over us continued.
Come T20 world cup in 2007 and they showed what they were really capable of. We needed to win against them to qualify for next round. They needed to lose respectably to move ahead. We did it. They did it too. Choked their way out of the tournament.
They defeated us in 2011 world cup in a league match. They choked later.
2015 has arrived. We are in same group. This would be our 4th attempt to win against them in a world cup game. If past trends are anything to go by, SA would be happier to lose to us. Victory against India in a league game has ended up in a perfect choke later in the tournament. Not playing India in before knock out stages hasn’t yielded a different result either. So for SA, losing to India on coming Sunday maybe their best shot.
What about us? Can we win? I tried thinking from different angles and couldn't find a single one from which we can sneak out a victory. Maybe our best chance would be to not get their openers out. Because even a thought of ABDV and Millar batting against our bowling gives jitters. Or if we can somehow make them believe that this is a knock out match and if they lose, they shall be send to India and made to watch 4 back to back shows of MSG: The Messenger dubbed in Zulu. Pressure of avoiding watching the movie would do the trick.
Otherwise, I don’t think we even stand a chance.
More than that, after the victory against mediocre Pakistanis, it wouldn't be a bad idea to face a crushing defeat bringing our feet down to the ground.
News is that Dale Steyn is down with flu. That should make abundance of talent we have quite happy. Maybe Steyn can be sledged like this
Rohit - You aren't playing? What happened? Scared of me?
Steyn – Scared of you? Really? I have flu, mate. Do you understand what it means? Do you understand English?
Rohit – Flu? Come to India and I will show you.
Although South African bowling is not close to their best without Steyn, I am afraid his absence isn’t going to make much of a difference. Not unless if we can somehow convince him to put on the mask of Umesh Yadav and bowl for us. But then, someone else will start bowling like Umesh.
Umesh, the Ajit Agarkar of this generation, is irreplaceable and incorrigible.