In 2011, the only match India lost was against South Africa, when an unheralded Robin Peterson scored 19 runs off Ashish Nehra after India’s batting collapsed in Nagpur, despite a century from Sachin Tendulkar.
Kohli and Ashwin are the only players in the current squad who were part of India’s title-winning run in 2011.
India, currently undefeated, have the opportunity to secure the top spot with a win and 16 points. However, they need to guard against complacency and aim to emulate the all-conquering Australian team of 2007, which won the World Cup without losing a single game. A win would confirm India’s top spot with one match left against the Netherlands.
On the other hand, South Africa’s strong batting lineup, packed with power-hitters and game-changers, poses a formidable challenge to India’s pace attack. This clash is critical in determining the group toppers heading into the semi-finals.
South Africa’s consistent high scores in this World Cup have been a challenge for bowlers. They posted the tournament’s highest score of 428/5 against Sri Lanka in their opening match, and in all five matches where they batted first, they achieved 300-plus totals. Quinton de Kock leads the run-chart with 545 runs from seven matches.
The Proteas’ only weakness has been chasing, as witnessed in their defeat to the Netherlands when they were bundled out for 207 while chasing 245. South Africa would be wary of batting second due to dew and would prefer to set a target.
India, on the other hand, have shown their ability to chase and defend effectively. With dew around, chasing might be easier at the Eden Gardens, but South Africa will be looking to go all out and set a big target.
Indian pacer Mohammed Shami‘s stellar form has made a significant impact on the team following Hardik Pandya‘s injury. Since being introduced to the World Cup squad, Shami has taken 14 wickets in three matches at an average of 6.71. The consistent length and late movement in Shami’s deliveries have made India’s pace attack formidable.
Jasprit Bumrah has also added a menacing slower yorker to his arsenal, while Mohammed Siraj’s early support with the new ball has been crucial. The duo has taken 10 wickets each in the powerplay, making India the most economical team during this phase.
The battle between Shami and Bumrah against in-form players like Quinton de Kock and Rassie van der Dussen, who have scored six centuries between them in this World Cup, will be intriguing.
Additionally, the contest between Heinrich Klaasen, known for his aggression against spin, and Indian spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja is another compelling aspect.
With India’s strong batting lineup featuring Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma, who is known for his impressive performances at the Eden Gardens, the stage is set for a thrilling encounter.
Kohli, one century away from his 49th ODI hundred, would be eager to achieve this milestone on his 35th birthday. Rohit Sharma, also aiming to score big runs after a low score in the last match, will be a key player for the team.
‘Chak de India!’ India scores tremendous victory against Sri Lanka, cricket fans on cloud nine
India: Rohit Sharma (c), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ishan Kishan (wk), Suryakumar Yadav and Prasidh Krishna.
South Africa: Temba Bavuma (c), Gerald Coetzee, Quinton de Kock (wk), Reeza Hendricks, Marco Jansen, Heinrich Klaasen (wk), Andile Phehlukwayo, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Lungi Ngidi, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Rassie van der Dussen and Lizaad Williams.
Match starts: 2 pm IST.
(With inputs from PTI)