Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

In what will be a battle of equals, the unstoppable team India will take on the mighty South Africa in the ICC ODI World Cup 2023 match at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Sunday.

The business end of the league phase of the World Cup before the knock-out stage can be a tricky time once the semi-final place is guaranteed. But there can be no let-up in resolve and India should be carrying through momentum and confidence by beating the Proteas who are of course the most challenging team to beat.

The Men in Blue are two victories away from a perfect run into the knockouts and they would be eager to tick that box. So transient are the highs and lows in white-ball cricket that the repercussions of Sunday’s blockbuster are not expected to influence India’s knockout destiny. However, it’s a kind of final showdown before the grand final of the mega event. This surely has shaped up to be a dress rehearsal of the real deal.

Two evenly matched-and formidable teams have talented and explosive batters. Both sides have also incisive pacers and gritty spinners. They will ply their trades on a surface that hasn’t produced a score higher than 229 in four innings. Dew makes the ball zip through the lush outfield, but under lights, it is an unpredictable pitch that is bound to test the limits of batters.

“I can never predict it. Neither can groundsmen. Half the time they are telling me something, and then it’s not. But I think the beauty of this tournament is that it has shown that if you bat first and put good scores on the board, dew hasn’t been as much of a factor. The results haven’t been as skewed as a lot of people thought leading into this tournament,” said coach Rahul Dravid.

Meanwhile, South Africa will target to exploit India’s weakness in the absence of a sixth bowler as all-rounder Hardik Pandya has been ruled out.

“They only have five bowlers, so they can, I guess, be put under pressure if one of them is not on his day. But you have got to probably respect their bowling attack a little bit more than the other bowling attacks. And understand that you are going to have to play good cricket for longer periods,” said South Africa captain Temba Bavuma.