Teams pin hopes on seamers
You get a sense of what to expect on Friday. Royal Challengers Bangalore will most likely hit Chennai Super Kings with bouncers. Even the Central Districts bowlers did it to Chennai on the same Durban pitch a few days back. And it had nearly worked. Even without any fiercely fast bowlers. Bangalore have Dale Steyn and it will be interesting to see how the Indian batsmen in the Chennai line-up handle him.
S Badrinath has the upper-cut over the slips as his main option against bouncers, Suresh Raina is yet to develop a proper defensive or attacking option against the same delivery and S Anirudha is an unknown quantity. M Vijay has shown a tendency to land in trouble, trying to pull deliveries from well outside off when it's banged in short. It's still not clear whether it's due to an eagerness to show he can pull, or a sign of nerves that clouds his decision-making ability. You sense that the middle order can quickly disintegrate under pressure. And so, Steyn's little spell in the middle overs will be crucial. If he can get his radar right, it can get really interesting. He has, at times, got it wrong as well. In this short format, the plans can boomerang and go awry awfully quickly.
Anil Kumble knows it. When asked whether he would be deploying the bouncer-strategy, he preferred to play his cards close to his chest. "We have our plans. You will see tomorrow. But it all depends how we execute the plans. We have been successful in the past at times and we have not been successful also on a couple of occasions. It will depend on the pitch and conditions. Your plans have to be very fluid in this format." Bangalore will miss Jacques Kallis the bowler. In this year's IPL, Steyn and Kallis had waylaid visiting batsmen with bouncers on their home track in Bangalore.
Bangalore lost both the games they played in Durban in this tournament but Kumble chose to remember the contest from last year when they beat Chennai at the same venue in the IPL semi-final. "We need to take confidence that we really did well against Mumbai and it was a narrow loss. Last time we played Chennai here in Durban we won; that's what we would take rather than think we haven't won a game here this time."
Chennai didn't practice on Friday. They just came in from Port Elizabeth. At the end of last league game against the Warriors, Dhoni was asked about the clash with Bangalore and he shared his concerns about his fast bowlers. "I think our fast bowlers will have to pull up their socks. They will have to do definitely well in the coming game. There have been weak links where we need to improve. The spinners have done the job for us so far. Hopefully, on the Durban pitch, the fast bowlers will do well for the team."
Dhoni also said he might use Justin Kemp slightly higher up the order on the Durban pitch. "In the last couple of games, the tracks have been quite slow and low which means [they act] more like a sub-continental pitch. So, players like Anirudha could really contribute."
Dhoni added he wasn't too concerned about the fact that Bangalore have played couple of games in Durban. "I believe that a Twenty20 game is about that particular day. What the situation is like and what the condition is like. I think they have played a couple of games. And including the warm-up games we too have played the same amount of games in Durban. I don't think that it will make much of a difference."
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo