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ICC World Cup: India to clash with South Africa at Eden Gardens in Kolkata

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In the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup, unbeaten Team India will clash with rejuvenated South Africa in an absolute electrifying match at Eden Gardens in Kolkata.

The match will start at 2  pm . Both teams have played seven matches till now and India remains the only team unbeaten so far in the tournament. On the other hand, South Africa has only lost one match.

India is currently at No.1 position with fourteen points followed by South Africa at 2nd place with twelve points.  A triumph would solidify India’s hold on the leading spot, leaving only one match against the Netherlands. Kolkata, known for its tropical climate, generally sees transitioning weather around November. The monsoon season is well past, and winter is about to set in. But November is also somewhat unpredictable, with possibilities of sporadic showers.

The South Africans wouldn’t have seen the dozens of India replica shirt sellers on the paths leading to Eden Gardens on Saturday, a pile of azure and saffron hopes and dreams in front of each of them. They wouldn’t have taken note of the scrums of hopefuls at the ticket counters, nor felt the urgency and intensity that shimmered from them.

They would have had no clue about the scores of workers ranged around this grand but strangely bleak ground, waiting in the shade to do whatever it is they had been employed to do. But, after their training session, they would have heard the rising wave of cheers that greeted their bus as it pulled away and melted into the fast falling evening. And they would have known: they are not in Kansas anymore. Or anywhere India aren’t.

The men’s World Cup, for India and South Africa, starts on Sunday. These sides have spent the tournament like the big beasts they are, circling each other and putting other, lesser sides in their place. They are at the top of the standings, and on Sunday – not before time – they will be on the same ground not giving each other anywhere to run or hide.

It was probably a good thing the South Africans were long gone by the time the Indians arrived for their practice under lights. So they didn’t hear or feel the roar that greeted the sight of the home team’s bus, which was exponentially more powerful than that with which the visitors had been sent on their way.

Also advantageous, no doubt, was that they had no knowledge of the police, some on horseback, others armed with lathis, using what looked like unnecessary violence to disperse a throng that had formed several metres away from the bus to try and catch a glimpse of the men who not only wear the authentic version of those azure and saffron shirts, but also embody so many of the nation’s hopes and dreams. And also, perhaps, to wish Virat Kohli a happy 35th birthday for Sunday.

South Africa’s session ambled through its few hours in front of empty banks of seats. Shaun Pollock was in attendance and had apparently casual chats with a range of his compatriots. Rob Walter took a photograph of the pitch being prepared for Sunday’s game, presumably to make a comparison with the finished article on Sunday.

Before he trained Temba Bavuma gave a press conference, which was well-attended but not packed. Crassly and inexplicably he was asked about choking. The captain of a team who have won six of their seven matches at the tournament, a side who had hung tough to win, by one wicket, the only game in which they had been put under pressure, took it well and answered, not for the first time, with good grace: “To choke? I don’t know how to answer that. I think if we come unstuck tomorrow, I don’t think it’ll be a matter of choking. I doubt you would say about India, if they come unstuck, that they had choked.”

Rahul Dravid appeared in the same room and sat down in the same chair some hours later. This time it was standing room only, and the ICC media manager had to thicken his voice to clear the aisle of a renegade camera person. Dravid was addressed as Sir and Bhai. The crowd nodded their agreement at everything he said and laughed at his dad jokes as if they were in the presence not of cricketing greatness, but someone they would pay good money to see and hear.

On the field outside India’s session was stirring towards starting. In the stands more than a hundred were watching. Up to four large national flags were being waved, and Sudhir Gautam, once Sachin Tendulkar’s No. 1, now the entire team’s, was in attendance; all got up in body paint and blowing his conch.

Squads:

South Africa Squad: Quinton de Kock(w), Temba Bavuma(c), Rassie van der Dussen, Aiden Markram, Heinrich Klaasen, David Miller, Marco Jansen, Gerald Coetzee, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Tabraiz Shamsi, Andile Phehlukwayo, Reeza Hendricks, Lizaad Williams

India Squad: Rohit Sharma(c), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul(w), Suryakumar Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Siraj, Ishan Kishan, Shardul Thakur, Ravichandran Ashwin, Prasidh Krishna

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