• Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Seeking to end the jinx

Naimul Karim
For South Africa captain Faf du Plessis it would be sticking to basics against his unconventional yet highly effective Indian counterpart Mahendra Singh Dhoni (R) in today's ICC World T20 second semifinal at Mirpur. Photo: Firoz Ahmed
For South Africa captain Faf du Plessis it would be sticking to basics against his unconventional yet highly effective Indian counterpart Mahendra Singh Dhoni (R) in today's ICC World T20 second semifinal at Mirpur. Photo: Firoz Ahmed

When Imran Tahir was asked if he enjoyed bowling on the wickets in Chittagong, his reply-- considering the fact that he went on to take eleven scalps in four games there -- was contradictory to his key performances.
“Not really, there's no turn. I have had to vary my pace to get the wickets. The wickets in Dhaka are different to the ones here,” is what Tahir had said after rescuing his side against the Netherlands in a nail-biting finish.
After a series of close wins, South Africa -- against the odds -- have managed to reach the semis; something that will allow the likes of Tahir to have a go on the kind of wickets that a number of spinners from the Chittagong leg had been looking forward to.  
While it may be a positive for the leg-spinner, who was seen taking tips from Shane Warne during practice on Wednesday, the fact that the Proteas will be in unfamiliar surrounds for the crucial encounter is at the back of their minds.
As skipper Faf du Plessis put it, “The wicket in Dhaka is completely different to Chittagong, we played all our games there and India have played all their games here. So definitely from a conditions point of view, they are much more used to it than we are.
“But we put in some hard practices this week on surfaces in order to get used to the spin. But I don't think the wicket will be that bad. In the previous game it looked like a good cricket wicket,” said du Plessis.
South Africa's journey to the semis has witnessed a series of last-minute turnarounds, with different match-winners emerging everyday. Against the Netherlands, it was an implosion in the Dutch batting line-up towards the end, courtesy of some good spin bowling from Tahir that helped them scrape through. Against New Zealand the dual effort of Dale Steyn and JP Duminy helped them edge past, while against England, a thunderous half-century from AB de Villiers made the difference.


While there have been individual performances in different games, they are yet to get off the blocks as a complete package. There is also the question regarding de Villiers' batting position and whether slow-left armer Aaron Phangiso should get an opportunity on a turning track.
The close finishes however have given them a renewed sense of confidence.
“It's really important for me as a team that we go in with a fresh mindset. We have been through some tough situations when we probably should not have won, but our resilience and never-say die attitude has put us in a good state,” said du Plessis, adding that South Africa have been the underdogs throughout the tournament.
A fresh mindset is something that they will no doubt be counting on, for a number of reasons. That they will be going up against an unbeaten side in this tournament is the first. The second is the added pressure of not being able to win a semi-final in any major competition since the mini-World Cup in 1998 in Dhaka, a tournament they ended up winning. The key for the Proteas will be to stand up against pressure, an aspect with which du Plessis summed up in the pre-match press conference.
“We are expecting pressure. There is always pressure when you play for your country. It's all about making sure that you do well,” a focused du Plessis said. 

Published: 12:00 am Friday, April 04, 2014

Last modified: 11:03 pm Thursday, April 03, 2014

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