Colombo: Muttiah Muralidharan thinks South Africa have erred in picking their playing XI in the subcontinent conditions and that has contributed to their defeats against Pakistan and Australia in the Super Eights.
“That is because they haven’t picked the right side… The ideal players for these conditions haven’t been considered. Faf du Plessis should have played… They should have opened with Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis. Getting the best batsmen out on the park is very important,” Muralidharan told The Telegraph on Monday.
“Richard Levi hasn’t been in the best of form. They need to look into their batting line-up. Their bowling is good… It’s hard to predict whether the No.1 team will make the knockouts… It could be anyone’s game from here…”
The highest wicket-taker in Tests (800) and one-day Internationals (534) is not ruling out the Indians either.
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“They have played well against England and Pakistan… They had a bad day versus Australia and that has jeopardised their semi-final hopes. I hope they make it to the last-four… They are a very dangerous side… They are a team packed with match-winners… Virat Kohli is in the form of his life… You can’t rule them out,” he explained.
Did India blunder by picking three spinners against Australia? “I don’t know about that… The only thing I will say is that two spinners are more than enough for any side,” he said.
“The part-timers are there to play their part in these conditions. They will come in handy in this format and it has been so in this tournament so far…”
He didn’t wish to comment on Virender Sehwag’s omission from the playing XI against Australia. “I can’t comment on that from outside. It’s entirely up to the team management. They must have done so in the best interests of the team.”
The Australians’ performance has impressed Muralidharan. “They are playing well as a team. Shane Watson has been phenomenal… David Warner has been doing his job well, too."
“Their bowlers have been living up to the challenge as well. Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins have done well… Xavier Doherty impressed in his maiden outing against South Africa.”
Speaking before Sri Lanka’s match against England, Muralidharan didn’t wish to go deep into the hosts’ showing. “They have done reasonably well… Seems like they are peaking at the right time. Let’s keep out fingers crossed…”
Has any of the spinners impressed him? “Ajantha Mendis, Ravichandran Ashwin, Harbhajan Singh… They have all been good. They have bowled according to the demands… It’s difficult to pinpoint any one in particular.”
According to Muralidharan, the wickets have been playing true to its nature despite all the talk about it favouring the spinners. “The wickets have been playing normally. They have been slow and turning a bit… Spinners will succeed in these conditions."
“It’s not just that the spinners will benefit… The pacers too have been successful and have a role to play. The fast bowlers will need some variation, though, to succeed in these conditions.”
Yuvraj Singh’s comeback after successfully battling cancer has surprised Muralidharan. “It’s been a great achievement. It’s very tough to make a comeback from a life threatening disease… He has balanced all aspects very well… If he gets some runs under his belt, he will soon be back to peak form.”