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Preview: As anyone who has braved a day’s play at Delhi’s perpetually sun-struck Arun Jaitley Stadium could attest, shade isn’t part of the package. But that might not be the case on Saturday, and it wouldn’t have anything to do with the weather. Instead thank the teams.
The shadows around South Africa and Sri Lanka are long and deep, and for reasons that are at once similar and not. Few will need reminding that the South Africans have an unhappy record at tournaments, and even fewer that the Lankans are in dismal form. Both are on the wrong side of history; one something like ancient, the other modern.
Temba Bavuma might have been speaking for Dasun Shanaka on Friday when he said: “It’s probably impossible to block out the noise. That expectation, that pressure, will always be there. I took comfort at the captains’ dinner [in Ahmedabad on Wednesday] when I heard the other captains speak about pressure, and hearing and understanding that the emotions and the effects are the same for all of us.”
But other captains and their players won’t have had to come to terms with losing five of six World Cup knockout games, which has been South Africa’s fate since they made their debut in 1992. Nor with being dismissed for 50 in their most recent ODI, as the Lankans were by India in the Asia Cup final in Colombo last month.
Yet there are reasons to be cheerful, or so it would seem. The South Africans had slumped to two losses in a home ODI series against Australia last month – which followed a 3-0 hiding in the T20Is – when they reeled off three stirring wins to clinch the rubber. Before their blowout against India, Sri Lanka had won 14 of 15 ODIs.
Not so fast. Terms and conditions apply: Australia sent a starkly experimental squad to South Africa, and Sri Lanka’s string of success involved beating the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Ireland, Zimbabwe and West Indies, none of which are at the World Cup. South Africa only just avoided having to navigate the World Cup qualifiers in Zimbabwe in June and July. Sri Lanka had to go that route, a disconcerting truth for a team who were champions in 1996.
That was 27 years ago. The number will resonate with South Africans. It’s how long Nelson Mandela spent in jail in his several more decades long fight against apartheid. Much that has damaged cricket and everything else has happened in both countries’ real worlds in that time.
Sri Lanka Squad: Pathum Nissanka, Dimuth Karunaratne, Kusal Mendis(w), Sadeera Samarawickrama, Charith Asalanka, Kusal Perera, Dhananjaya de Silva, Dasun Shanaka(c), Kasun Rajitha, Lahiru Kumara, Dunith Wellalage, Dushan Hemantha, Dilshan Madushanka, Matheesha Pathirana, Maheesh Theekshana
South Africa Squad: Quinton de Kock(w), Reeza Hendricks, Temba Bavuma(c), Rassie van der Dussen, Aiden Markram, Heinrich Klaasen, Andile Phehlukwayo, David Miller, Marco Jansen, Gerald Coetzee, Keshav Maharaj, Lungi Ngidi, Lizaad Williams, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi
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