Not often does one find India on the back-foot at home. But this has happened against South Africa in this current series. After losing the Twenty20 series , the 3rd and final Twenty20 tie at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens gives India the opportunity to salvage lost pride. The visitors have taken an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series. Ironically, in both games, Team India had faltered much to the surprise of its fans.
In the first contest at Dharamsala, the hosts were able to pile up a massive 199 on the board, but the somewhat inexperienced bowling line-up failed to keep the Proteas in check and dasher J.P. Duminy — playing a valiant knock of 68 runs — took his side home with seven wickets in hand.
The second game at the Barabati Stadium in Cuttack saw the famed Indian batting crumble like cookies for a mere 92. South Africa chased the total down quite easily, losing only four wickets. What contributed to the Indian batting fiasco were poor running between the wickets. Virat Kohli and opener Rohit Sharma were the victims of indecisive calling. The run- out of Virat, Team India’s X factor, hurt India the most.
But as they approach the last contest of the T20 series, the Indians would want to forget the Barabati debacle and focus on what is in store at Eden. According to pitch curator Prabir Mukherjee and former India captain Sourav Ganguly, the Eden strip would be batting friendly.
If the Indian batting clicks, one can expect a run deluge from the likes of Rohit, Kohli and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Ajinkya Rahne might a get in ahead of out off form Ambati Rayudu.
The tourists who have got the likes of AB de Villiers and Duminy in their ranks, means that a good batting exhibition could be on display. If the pitch indeed favours the batsmen, it will turn into a ‘You miss, I hit’ contest.
But one has to keep in mind that Eden Gardens is no Dharamsala, where the air is thin and the ball flies off the willow. Therefore, spinners might play a pivotal role. For India, it has been off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, in the bowling department, who has grabbed four wickets from the two outings. If the Indians are to pull this one off, the others need to chip in as well.
The Indians might also take confidence from the fact that they have won six out of the 10 T20 Internationals against South Africa, but then again the momentum is with the visitors. As it is an insignificant tie for the Proteas, a few players yet to play a part in this series might get a look in. The same cannot be said for India who would be desperate for a win so as to boost the side’s confidence ahead of the five-game ODI series and the four Test matches against the same opponents.