There are 1.252 billion people in India.
That’s a lot.
Every single one of them will be focused on what happens at the SCG on Thursday 26th March.
India v Australia.
The defending champions versus the four time winner. A game bigger than Virender Sehwag’s nightly dinner portion.
But there is another semi final being played too.
You probably haven’t realised or taken notice.
The two countries that are playing have a combined population of just 56 million. That’s less than the population of Tamil Nadu.
South Africa take on New Zealand. Have you heard of them?
They are a confusing mob. Smacked by India at the MCG. Only making 202 in their loss against Pakistan.
Yet here they are. They won their first ever knock out match in a World Cup against Sri Lanka. They now play New Zealand for the right to battle for the trophy in the final.
And what of their opponents?
It is quite clear that they are doing better than ok. Being undefeated is usually a good sign of that. There was that strange match against Australia that they won by a solitary wicket. However, it is unlikely we will see something like that again.
The fun bit for the neutral observer is that neither of these two teams have ever made a World Cup final before. We will see a new challenger to either Australia or India. That is great for the sport.
The not so fun part for either South Africa or New Zealand is that the loser will be tainted for a long time.
It is easy to see why with South Africa. They are already known as World Cup chokers. Until last week, they had never won a knock out match in this tournament before. That sad history has been documented multiple times.
Lose against the Kiwi’s and the hyenas will be laughing around the globe.
The New Zealander’s on the other hand have always been the underdog. Until this current performance, they have never previously been taken as a serious contender for the crown.
Therein lies the problem. They are undefeated. They are playing at home. The match is against a side not playing at its best. It is there for the taking. What if they lose?
The Chokers Cup.
It is real and it is scary.
FACT: The loser of this World Cup semi final will be labelled as chokers.
So, who is likely to win? Perhaps the correct question is who is likely to choke?
Let’s start with the Proteas.
They have issues.
Let’s start with this graphic:
According to the ICC, the only batsman worth his salt in that team is some bloke called AB de Villiers.
An unhealthy reliance?
Actually, it’s a misnomer. Five of their batsmen have made a hundred in this tournament. Five of their batsmen average over 50. One averages 46. That’s a guy named Amla.
Compare that with New Zealand, who only have one century maker. It’s Guptill, and he’s done it twice.
McCullum hasn’t done it. Williamson hasn’t done it. Taylor hasn’t done it. Anderson hasn’t done it.
An unhealthy reliance? Absolutely.
So, we have now established that the Kiwi batting line-up lacks a group of inform batsmen that are going big. That’s quite a surprise given they are undefeated. In four of their matches, they never cracked 200 runs as a team.
Compare that with South Africa. They twice made 300 and then also twice made 400. They can clearly bat.
But what about the bowling?
Boult, Southee and Vettori have been superb. Anderson has also chipped in now and then. Those four bowlers all have at least a 3’fer in this tournament. Boult has done it three times. That’s very handy.
Of the Test nations, they rolled England for 123, Australia for 151, Sri Lanka for 233 and the West Indies for 250. Only Bangladesh weren’t bowled out, reaching 7/288.
You can’t fault that. Their bowling is clearly why they are winning games.
South Africa also have a strong record against the Test nations. They bowled out Sri Lanka and the West Indies for under 200, Pakistan got to 222 and Zimbabwe 277 . Only India got away from them, making 7/307. Having said that, 307 is not a large score anymore.
Interestingly, five of the Protea bowlers have taken a 3’fer during the World Cup. One even took a hat-trick. That’s a great spread. Even better when you note that Philander is not on that list.
The big win has been Tahir. The leg spinner most famous for his world record 0/260 in Adelaide has three times taken a 3’fer. His middle over bowling delivers wickets rather than just tie up an end.
It is fair to conclude that the bowling is difficult to split in the same vein as the batting.
Therefore, who wins the Choker Cup? Yes, I’m being deliberate with the use of that double entendre.
Objectively, it is hard for me to see anyone but South Africa winning this semi final. The numbers above show that they should make more runs than the Kiwis.
Consequently, New Zealand will win the Chokers Cup.
It’s not the one they wanted, but they have lost more World Cup semi finals than any other team.
Why not lose another one?