South Africa, which tops the Castrol Index with 190 points, will start overwhelming favourite in its ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 quarter-final against New Zealand.
It has the right kind of combination that covers all bases. In what is a huge departure from the past, it packs so much variety in its bowling to the point that it can even lay great emphasis on spin bowling. I would imagine leg-spinner Imran Tahir will return to play this important match and make South Africa that much more formidable.
The moot question really is whether South Africa has got the temperament. If you look at how it has fared in the past, it is clear that its teams have been brilliant in the league stages or in five-match series where they have been aware of the cushion of bouncing back even if they lose a game or two. The problem for South African teams has been their showing in knockout stages.
The pressure gets to them when they become aware that if they have a bad day, they can be knocked out. As talented as the side may be, I think there will be a question mark against its temperament.
And I believe that New Zealand has the team and the ability to exploit that weakness. If you look at the New Zealand's history with South Africa, you will find that the Black Caps is one team that run South Africa close. Yet, for New Zealand to upset South Africa, it will need a blinder from a Ross Taylor or a Brendon McCullum who are the only two New Zealanders who can change the game.
As the Batting Momentum chart reveals on the Castrol Index, New Zealand's batting has been a problem area. In terms of class and ability, man to man South Africa stacks up better than New Zealand. The likes of Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis and the devastating AB de Villiers lead the pack and South Africa bats deep, too, with JP Duminy and du Plessis capable of shining.
When I look at the two sides, I must say that of the South Africans de Villiers and Hashim Amla with their batting and Imran Tahir have impressed me the most in this World Cup. If he is back in the game against New Zealand, South Africa may have to leave out Johan Botha. Imran Tahir may concede a few runs but he will surely be among wickets.
And since the South Africans rate Morne van Wyk high as a batsman, I do not see the drop him and make de Villiers keep wickets. van Wyk hits the ball hard and can bat anywhere in the order. And I am sure they do not want to put any extra pressure on de Villiers and take the edge off his batting, especially with the rising temperatures.
Ravi Shastri, is writing in his role as a Castrol Index spokesperson.