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Game Plan: Will Arshdeep and Kuldeep target their match-ups?

Last updated on 29 Jun 2024 | 09:27 AM
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Game Plan: Will Arshdeep and Kuldeep target their match-ups?

The Barbados breeze will be another point both India and South Africa will consider to frame their tactics

Pitch, conditions and opposition

Unlike England, South Africa don't rely heavily on their openers. They have better batters of spin-bowling, but Barbados hasn’t been as spin-friendly as Guyana. Hence, against South Africa, India might have to dig deeper to create inroads. 

The Kensington Oval in Barbados has seen a fair bit of spin bowling in this World Cup. In fact, at 43.8% of the overs here in eight matches, Barbados has the highest share of spin-bowling. However, that has only translated into middling numbers. The spinners here have averaged 26.4 at an economy of 7.3, both not meeting the benchmark set in some other venues. 

The right-arm leg-spinners have enjoyed the most success here, averaging 18.7 for their 14 wickets. On the contrary, the left-arm orthodox spinners have gone at 44.4 runs per wicket. India have two such spinners, Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel, and may need to hide one of them a bit with the overs of Hardik Pandya. South Africa may play only one spinner who is also a left-arm orthodox bowler, Keshav Maharaj. 

Barbados has also had a heavy breeze flowing across the stadium. Scotland’s Brandon McMullen, after 60 off 34 balls, spoke about targeting the off-side against the spinners because of the wind blowing in that direction. One batter in every contest in Barbados has spoken about the breeze and shorter boundary on one side. 

While the final might be played on the centre wicket, the breeze would still be a point both sides will consider in this fixture to frame their tactics.

Arshdeep to target de Kock 

Quinton de Kock has batted at a strike rate of 158.4 in the powerplay this World Cup. No other Protea batter has managed to go at more than 100. Returning to form after a grim start, the left-hander played decisive knocks of 74 off 40 balls against the USA and 65 off 38 balls against England. 

In T20Is since 2022, de Kock has only struggled against left-arm pace in the powerplay. Among his seven dismissals at only 16.1 runs apiece, five have been on deliveries moving out, and the other two on balls headed into him. Three wickets in the full-length region further speak of de Kock’s weak defence against swinging deliveries. 

Arshdeep Singh has followed the same template to dismiss de Kock thrice in T20s for only 31 runs. Twice, the left-armer has pouched the wicketkeeper-batter with deliveries swinging away. However, day matches in West Indies in this World Cup haven’t seen much lateral movement for swing bowlers. Arshdeep’s record in the Caribbean leg (economy 8.6) compared to the USA (economy 6.3) corroborates the theory. 

Thus, conditions in Barbados subvert the match-up in favour of de Kock, but he would still have to be careful in Arshdeep’s first two overs. 

Kuldeep to tackle Miller

A bonafide match-winner in the format, David Miller is the second-highest run-scorer for South Africa in this competition. On paper, Hardik Pandya has dismissed him the most times in T20 cricket for an Indian bowler (4). However, there is no clear pattern, except that Hardik has bowled at Miller a fair bit. 

There is a clear pattern in Miller’s travails against left-arm wrist spinners, though. In T20s since 2023, the 35-year-old averages a mere 5.7 against left-arm wrist spinners at a shocking strike rate of 68. Only 44% of attacking shots, the least against any bowling type, are dismissals off full and good length. Everything screams that Miller’s power vanishes against left-arm leg-spin. The pitch map below shows he doesn’t pick these spinners off the hand. 

Kuldeep Yadav himself has nabbed the left-hander twice for 44 runs. Considering Miller bats in the middle order and Kuldeep bowls only after the powerplay, their face-off looks inevitable and could be a deciding factor in the contest. 

Tighten the noose on Surya

As mentioned ahead of the semi-final against England, Suryakumar Yadav doesn’t have major shortcomings against any bowling type. The best way to tie him down is to make him hit into the off-side. England did that quite well. While Surya scored 30 off 19 balls into the leg-side, 17 off 17 on the off-side mitigated his individual score to 47 off 36 balls. 

Overall, in this tournament, the right-hander has a strike rate of 101.4 on the off-side and 172.2 on the on-side. More boundary protection in the leg-side regions would be the key for Aiden Markram

Rabada, Jansen vs Rohit

Kagiso Rabada has had Rohit Sharma’s number four times in T20 cricket for 90 runs in 76 balls. Moreover, Rabada has dismissed Rohit on his strength, twice making him pull awkwardly in the hands of the fielder. The other two wickets are off moving the ball from the good length. 

From the other end, Rohit is likely to face Marco Jansen. Although the two have never come up against each other in the shortest format, Rohit against left-arm pace always creates a stir. This World Cup, he has been out to left-arm pace four times. In the last two games, however, Rohit smashed Mitchell Starc in the powerplay and circumvented the threat of Reece Topley in the semi-final. 

Rabada and Jansen have been the new ball bowlers for South Africa. Considering Rohit’s vital contribution in the previous two big games, the Proteas would target at claiming the Indian skipper’s wicket upfront. 

When will Maharaj bowl? 

Keshav Maharaj might well be the only frontline spinner in South Africa’s XI for this final. The poor record for left-arm spinners may make South Africa ponder how to use him. 

Maharaj has bowled mostly in the middle overs in this World Cup (21 out of his 25 overs). Continuing on a similar route, Maharaj can be a defensive option against Surya who has a strike rate of 107.1 against left-arm finger spinners in T20Is since 2023. The problem here is that Surya might be surrounded by two left-handers in the batting order — Rishabh Pant and Shivam Dube.

Maharaj has dismissed Pant twice in only eight balls in T20s but hasn’t bowled to Dube yet. As numbers portray, there won’t be a better occasion for the spin-hitter Dube to fulfil his role. 

Can South Africa opt for Maharaj in the powerplay? Facing one over of Shakib Al Hasan in the powerplay in this World Cup, Rohit struck 15 runs but also got out. Virat Kohli, on the other hand, isn’t as proactive against left-arm spin. 

Hence, there is some thinking to do for South Africa in regards to Maharaj. 

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