Four South Africa players India need to be beware of and how they should go about dealing with them
Quinton de Kock
He starts with a slightly unorthodox front-on stance but walks into a decent position, fairly side-on, by the time the bowler is ready to bowl. But though his shoulders are more or less side-on, his bat still comes down from the direction of gully in the backlift. Because of that, and the fact that de Kock grew up batting in South African conditions, playing the short ball on either side of the pitch is second nature to him.
So while bowling with the new ball to him, it's important to shorten the length only when you want to bowl a bouncer. The ideal line and length to de Kock is to pitch the ball full and around the fourth stump. The bowling plan for the Indian new-ball bowlers must be to bowl a length that invites him to drive through the covers and mid-off on the front foot. That is one area he is not keen to play through, or quite equipped to target, early in his innings. Also, when you bowl a drivable line and length with the new ball, it's wise to have a couple of slips in place.
We have seen that if spinners bowl before he is set, de Kock isn't as comfortable as he is against pace. Kohli's India don't like bowling spin in the Powerplay overs, but it might not be a bad idea to throw spin at de Kock early on.
Faf du Plessis
Du Plessis is South Africa's pillar in the middle order, and if they are to do well against India, he will need to score big. He is equally competent against pace and spin, and therefore is a threat for India.
He has a distinctive way of holding the bat, where both his hands are apart and not together on the handle. When you hold the bat in that fashion, your bottom hand ceases to be the guiding hand and it starts dominating, even when you play shots through the off side off the front foot. The other aspect of having a bottom-hand-dominant game is that you are stronger with horizontal-bat shots. India's bowlers must try not to bowl short (unless it's a bouncer, like the one Jofra Archer bowled in the tournament opener), for du Plessis likes cutting and pulling. The ideal line should be on the fourth or fifth stump, dragging him forward while forcing him to play through the covers. It's also a good call to have a fielder at gully, for that will cut off easy singles when the ball is played toward third man. Du Plessis is also susceptible to chopping it back onto the stumps if he is forced to play towards covers.
South African captains of old looked like they were captaining to a set formula, in terms of both bowling changes and field placements. Starting with the same set of bowlers and till and through the death overs they almost always went with a preset plan - or at least without radically deviating from it. While that did give the side clarity and assurance about the role played by every bowler, it did make them a little predictable.
Du Plessis is cut from a different cloth. He is more about instinct and less about a set formula. And that gives South Africa an edge in this tournament. He started with Imran Tahir against England, brought back his lead bowlers at key stages of the game, and set fields that made the batsmen think and innovate. His go-to man is Rabada, with new ball and old. There's no doubt in my mind that, against India too, du Plessis will use Rabada in four spells, not just at the crucial stages of the game but also so that he is bowling to the key India batsmen.
With the new ball, he is likely to bowl a little short of length to push the batsmen back, and then slip in a fast, full ball as a sucker punch. The speed on the full delivery separates Rabada from the rest, for his full balls are quicker than those of most bowlers going around. It is important that the Indian top-order batsmen are always mindful of the possibility of the full ball, even when he is pushing them back consistently.
In the middle overs he will look to use the bouncer as a wicket-taking delivery, because the lack of lateral movement in the air and off the surface won't give him too many other wicket-taking options.
In the death overs, batsmen should be prepared for accurate yorkers, fast and slow bouncers, and lots of changes of pace, for that is how he operates in the last ten overs of an ODI.
Indians used to be among the finest players of spin, but of late, the majority of Indian batsmen seem to have found the going a little difficult against quality legspinners. In this IPL, the likes of Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli were regularly dismissed to legspin, especially googlies. It seemed like they were playing the line and not entirely reading the spin from the hand.
Like most successful modern legspinners, Tahir's googly is quite effective. Since he bowls with a high-arm action, even his legspin doesn't turn too much. While he does not impart much sidespin, he also bowls straight lines, and so it is difficult to score behind square on the off side or towards the point/covers region. The majority of runs scored against him come on the leg side, and that's the part of the field the Indians should look to target too. Most of the Indian batsmen don't sweep, and that's not a bad thing against Tahir's pace and trajectory. The safer bet is to play with the straight bat towards long-on or midwicket.