World T20 2014: Key Players Who Must Come Through in South Africa vs. India

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World T20 2014: Key Players Who Must Come Through in South Africa vs. India
A.M. Ahad

India are perhaps the most accomplished team at this year's T20 cricket World Cup. South Africa meanwhile, are closer to a model of inconsistency, making this semi-final clash tough to predict.

It's easier to focus on the players who could determine safe passage to the final for each nation, beginning with South Africa:

 

Imran Tahir

The stage is set for savvy bowler Imran Tahir to upset a strong Indian batting order. As Sky Sports highlights, the playing surface in Dhaka favours a slower-paced delivery like Tahir's.

That means he will be more important to South African chances than Dale Steyn, noted more for a lightning-fast assault on the wicket.

Sky Sports also points out that Tahir has received some helpful tips from a familiar face:

The South African squad were helped in their quest to cope with India's plethora of spinners by the appearance of Australian Shane Warne at their practice session on Thursday.

The legendary leggie took the chance to have a word with fellow slow bowler and former Hampshire team-mate Imran Tahir, who has so far played a key role for the South Africans. He has picked up 11 wickets in Bangladesh and boasts an economy rate well below seven.

Tahir's numbers have been excellent throughout the tournament. South Africa need Tahir to make an early dent in India's attack.

 

AB de Villiers

Probably the best batsman the Proteas can call on, AB de Villiers will have to play like it in the semi-final. His impact could hinge on the return of captain Faf du Plessis.

The skipper has received criticism for slowing down overs throughout the tournament, according to Alan Gardner of ESPNCricinfo.com. He even served a suspension for it against England, per BBCSport.co.uk.

The real question is what does du Plessis' return mean for de Villiers and the South African batting order? As Bleacher Report writer Antoinette Muller points out, du Plessis could slot in at No. 3 ahead of de Villiers.

Gallo Images/Getty Images
The order must be right between Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers.

But in a 20-over format, it makes sense to put the more dominant batsmen first. ICC-Cricket.com shows that de Villiers has the third-highest strike rate at the tournament.

As captain, du Plessis would be wise to unleash de Villiers on India early.

Of course, India will have their own counter to the potential damage de Villiers and Tahir can cause.

 

Yuvraj Singh

There will be some nerves in the India camp over the fitness of Yuvraj Singh. The shrewd all-rounder sustained an ankle injury before a recent training session, according to ESPNCricinfo.com reporter Abhishek Purohit.

Fortunately for India, the knock is believed to be a mild one, per Purohit, and the decision to hold Singh out of training was merely a case of playing it safe.

Scott Barbour/Getty Images
Yuvraj Singh has a key role to play against South Africa's slow-paced bowling.

That's a wise policy with one of the tournament's most reliable players in both phases of the game. India will need Singh's consistency at the wicket to outlast South Africa's slow-down tactics.

 

Ravichandran Ashwin

While Tahir will draw a lot of attention, India's own spinners could decide this semi-final. A cerebral legspinner like Ravichandran Ashwin could frustrate South Africa into defeat.

His economy rate for the tournament is an impressive 4.76, per stats from ICC-Cricket.com. As Abhishek Purohit of ESPNCricinfo.com points out, Ashwin has formed the stingiest bowling partnership at the tournament with Amit Mishra:

Both spinners have had principal roles to play in each of India's four successive victories in the group stage. On three of those occasions, they have not had the weight of runs backing them, as India relied on their preferred strategy of chasing. All three of those matches—against Pakistan, West Indies and Bangladesh—were 'live' ones, with qualification for the knockouts dependent on their results. Mishra was the Man of the Match against Pakistan and West Indies; Ashwin got the award against Bangladesh.

Two subcontinent sides supposedly accustomed to playing spin, and a third which has backed itself to hit the big shots under pressure, and have done so in crunch matches against Pakistan and Australia. None of them managed even 140 against the Indians.

Ashwin must make life difficult for de Villiers and company in Dakar.

Given the playing surface for tomorrow's encounter in Bangladesh, the spinners will make all the difference. If Tahir is out-duelled by Ashwin and Mishra, expect India to advance to the final.

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