Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz met in the semifinals of the French Open in June this year. Alcaraz was world number one at the time. Djokovic was ranked number three at the time. Many called the fight between the young Alcaraz and the experienced Djokovic the ‘final’ of the French Open. With the form both players were in, the match practically took on the appearance of a final. This Sunday, the sports world is facing such a moment again. The game is cricket this time. The stage is the World Cup. And two teams? India and South Africa. In the form of the two teams, everyone is calling this match the final of the World Cup.
Interest is high for the India vs South Africa match at Eden on Sunday. The black market for tickets has made that clear. Ticket prices are skyrocketing. Kolkata police have already arrested several people. Those who didn’t get tickets are moaning. Trying till the last minute to somehow get a ticket. But why so much anticipation around this match? Because this is practically the final of the World Cup.
India has not lost any match in this World Cup so far. In the form they are in, Rohit Sharma can remain number one. If India slips down to number two, South Africa has the best chance of taking over the number one spot. That is, India can play against South Africa in the semi-final rules of one versus four and two versus three teams and in the final. Before that, ‘Stage Rehearsal’ will be done in Sunday’s match itself.
Indian team after taking a wicket against Sri Lanka. Photo: PTI.
In this World Cup, India was said to be a contender to reach the final from the beginning. Rohit started by beating Australia by 6 wickets in the field of Chennai. In front of the Indian bowling, the Australian batting, rich in Steve Smith, Marnus Labuschen, was finished for 199 runs. Virat Kohli scored 85 runs in that match. Lokesh Rahul was unbeaten on 97 runs. That is the beginning of victory. As the matches progressed, India looked more formidable.
India won by 8 wickets against Afghanistan in Delhi. Rohit played an innings of 131 runs. His devastating innings boosted India’s confidence. The next match was against Pakistan. The match around which there was interest even before the start of the World Cup. It was unthinkable that India would blow away Pakistan in that match. But Pakistan’s innings ended with just 191 runs. Indian bowlers ended Pakistan’s innings in 42.5 overs. That match was a sign of team performance. After that Bangladesh (win by 7 wickets), New Zealand (win by 4 wickets), England (win by 100 runs) and Sri Lanka (win by 302 runs) could not stand against India. Even after Hardik Pandya got injured in the middle of the World Cup, the team did not suffer any major losses. India is not dependent on any one person. All the batsmen are in the runs, pace and spin departments are equally successful. Is it possible to beat India at all?
Before coming to Eden, Rohit was shocked, Hardik was left out of the whole World Cup, his injury did not heal.
The Indian board announced the replacement of Hardik, who got a chance in Rohit’s team in the World Cup?
Only one South Africa can do it. But can a team that has lost against the likes of the Netherlands do well against India? The counter question can be raised that the team has crossed the 350-run barrier four times in seven matches in this World Cup, scoring 428 runs in one of them, they have the ability to beat any team. South Africa’s loss against the Netherlands was completely accidental. South Africa’s dominance against the rest of the teams is similar to Rohit’s creating pressure.
South Africa’s first match in this World Cup was against Sri Lanka. South Africa scored 428 runs in that match. Centuries were scored in the same match by Quinton de Kock, Rossi van der Dusen and Aiden Markram. South Africa scored 311 runs against Australia in the next match. Australia ended on 177 runs. South Africa scored 399 runs against England. The Proteas won that match by 229 runs. Bangladesh (win by 149 runs), Pakistan (win by 1 wicket) and New Zealand (win by 190 runs) could not stand against South Africa.
Graphic: Shouvik Debnath.
This battle between India and South Africa is no longer limited to just two teams. It has reached the personal level as well. D’Kock now tops the list of most runs in the World Cup this time. Scored 545 runs in seven matches. He has scored four centuries in this competition. Virat Kohli is chasing him. He scored 442 runs in seven matches. Virat’s number of hundreds is one but half hundred is four. Average 88.40. A consistent batsman like him is not seen in the World Cup this time. India’s Rohit (402) and South Africa’s Markram (362) are not far behind in terms of runs.
Individual struggles like batting are seen in bowling as well. Marco Jansen has taken the most wickets for South Africa. He has taken 16 wickets in seven matches. Jasprit Bumrah has one wicket less than him. India’s other pacer Mohammed Shami took 14 wickets. South African pacer Gerald Coetzee also took 14 wickets. Not far behind are Kagiso Rabada (11) and Kuldeep Yadav (10).
Quinton D’Kock after the century. Photo: PTI.
Be it group or individual, no one is leaving an inch of land. The intensity of the India-South Africa battle has increased with the two teams occupying the number one and two positions in the points table. India won seven out of seven matches and got 14 points. South Africa lost one match and scored 12 points. But they are ahead of India in net run rate. As a result, if D’Kockera can defeat India in Eden, then they will get a chance to go to the semi-finals as number one. On the other hand, a win for India would virtually seal the number one spot. Because Rohit’s last match is against the weak Netherlands. South Africa will play there against Afghanistan. Who have given momentum to big teams in several matches in this World Cup.
The final of the World Cup is on November 19. That match will be in Ahmedabad. But Eden might see the ‘final’ before that. The two best teams of this World Cup are going to face each other on Sunday. Who can say, maybe the final will be played by these two teams.
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