Will it be a Super Sunday for India?

Will it be a Super Sunday for India?

Not many would disagree if you called this Indian bowling attack the best - among all the teams and those produced by India in limited-overs cricket

Not many would disagree if you called this Indian bowling attack the best - among all the teams and those produced by India in limited-overs cricket. If there were any doubts, the games against England and Sri Lanka might have put that to rest. It showed how times have changed for Indian cricket from being a batting powerhouse to a bowling superpower.

The fans, who have been used to watching the opponents muster runs at will after one good bowler on the day got to witness a combined demolition job one ball after the other, one bowler after the other. It also gave us a glimpse of how classic test match bowling with immaculate skills also holds relevance in shorter formats. For all the joy that the sound coming from the middle of the wood produces, Indian bowling has shown that there is a counter joy in seeing the ball bamboozling the batter making them dance to their tunes. In Ben Stokes’s case, it was quite literal.

Bumrah has been bowling as if his injury were a myth. There is an air of calm and sheer certainty of wickets when he comes on to bowl. He produces them with pace, swing, seam movement, and the wizardry of knowing when to use them all against a batter. The captain wants him at the power play, and Bumrah delivers. The captain wants him during the middle overs to break a partnership, and Bumrah delivers. And, when the captain wants him at the death to control the flow of the runs, Bumrah delivers again. Bumrah keeps delivering the goods like a machine with a lifetime warranty. This machine needs to be wrapped in cotton wool and taken care of for as long as possible.

If the batsmen can think of playing Bumrah out somehow, Siraj walks in next. He has quite magnificently developed into a certain wicket-taker in the power play and his skill to move the ball around at a good pace almost always delivers. His strength is his accuracy and how he makes the batsmen play at everything.

Beyond all, he is a fighter. Even if nothing works, he makes things happen by getting into the opponents' minds. Even when he has not been at his best in this World Cup, he has managed to provide the breakthroughs. The wicket of Babar Azam when Pakistan was going well is a classic case in point. Against Sri Lanka, he produced the Miyan magic once again sending shivers down their spine after THAT spell in the Asia Cup.

And then there is Mohammed Shami. If India had the quality of one bowler of this kind in the past, they would have felt comforted. But Indian cricket today has the luxury to leave Shami out of the first eleven. That has been their growth story in the last decade. Shami is probably the most underrated bowler in the world right now. Amidst the superstar in Bumrah and the chutzpah of Siraj, we often tend to rate Shami a little less. He is a relentless champion who not just delivers on the day but demolishes on his day. He has got the best seam position for any bowler in the world and the movement he gets off the pitch is a thing of joy.

The 10 balls Stokes faced off Shami is the best moment of the World Cup yet for me. Here’s the talisman of England, the guy who was recalled after his retirement to produce the big match knocks. The stage was set for him to do just that after restricting India to a modest total. Shami comes in and makes a schoolboy out of Stokes beating his bat six times out of 10. The sixth time got him jumping out of his crease in search of his first run only to see the stumps uprooted. In a span of three matches in this edition, he has become the leading wicket-taker for India in World Cups surpassing Zaheer Khan. Shami is pure magic.

If Bumrah doesn’t get you, Siraj will. If Siraj doesn’t, Shami will. If the pace doesn’t get you, then Jaddu and Kuldeep will. This is the story of Indian bowling in this World Cup. They will want this attack to go all the way for glory. Only a World Cup will do justice to the way they have gone about their business. As Indian cricket rejoices in the splendour of our fast bowling, it should not be forgotten that the culture was established and enabled by one man, Bharat Arun, who in partnership with Shastri and Virat, set the ball rolling quite literally.

The Proteas are in pulverising mode

While the story of Indian bowling continues to enchant, South Africa has been producing batting master class one match after the other. Quite simply, this South African side is the most destructive among all teams in this tourney. This is also their most destructive side yet and they have shown intimidation to the opposition in an emphatic manner.

We have seen sides from the past that had AB De Villiers and Faf Du Plessis. There has been individual brilliance on display but collectively South Africa have never put together a side that can create a stir. Even some of their best sides in the past during the 1999-2003 years cannot match the sheer power of this side. Quinton De Kock is in the form of his life. Watching him play, you only wonder if he decided to call it quits prematurely. He has a lot to give to the team and the world of cricket. Probably the best batsman-wicketkeeper going around right now, he has amassed runs like no other already matching up Sangakkara’s record number of centuries by a wicketkeeper. With the way he has gone by, he is his own undoing with his aggressive intent and not the bowler’s.

Van Der Dussen comes one drop and goes about his business in his own enclosed realms. He plays within himself, accumulates runs and before you know it, he has already gone beyond the century mark. Amidst the daredevilry of QDK, his weapon is more dangerous to the opposition for all the focus is on QDK to get him out. In a career spanning 56 matches, he averages 55 which is phenomenal by any yardstick.

If South Africa were to have an off day at the top, in comes Heinrich Klaasen, the spin-hitting monster. In the past, sides have used spin against SA to deceive them off the pitch or in the air. Most batters have succumbed to it, especially on Indian pitches. In Klaasen, they have the best player of spin from overseas. In combination with Markram who is probably their best in terms of absolute talent, the middle order has never looked this solid. What sets this SA side apart is the ease with which they power on without any lag even after the fall of wickets. SA like to bat first and set the tone. They have dominated this World Cup by only setting targets and all of them in excess of 300. India like to chase after setting the tone with the ball. They have the master of chases in birthday boy Virat Kohli who likes a score on the board to go behind. Will it be the bat-first SA or bowl-first India? What if the order turns around? The clash between the table toppers promises to offer a lot at the Eden Gardens.

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