India host South Africa in the first of three One Day Internationals at the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium in Dharamsala on Thursday. This series will be the last time the teams play ahead of the qualification process starting for the 2023 Cricket World Cup as the 2020–22 ICC Cricket World Cup Super League commences.
India have already qualified for the 2023 event as hosts, but both sides are hunting the winning formula. With the Indian Premier League following the series and the World T20 in autumn, the three games provide all players with an opportunity to lay down a marker for form and future selection.
The Proteas are the next in a line of teams to test their mettle against Virat Kohli’s Team India on their own turf. James Buttler assesses the series ahead and finds the best bets…
INDIA WELCOME BACK INJURED TRIO
India have won their last two home ODI series after losing the first match both times. They then lost 3-0 in New Zealand recently.
White ball vice-captain Rohit Sharma (calf) is still missing for the Men In Blue, the subcontinent giants welcome back Shikhar Dhawan at the top of the order.
All-rounder Hardik Pandya is likely to return from injury and Bhuvneshwar Kumar is back in the pace department. Both have been missing through injury and their return see Team India almost at full strength. It will be interesting to see if Pandya slots straight back into the starting XI at the expense of Ravi Jadeja.
THE START OF A HUGE YEAR FOR CAPTAIN KOHLI
There is no doubting Virat Kohli’s position as the best batsman in world cricket across all formats although, by his high standards, he has struggled for runs recently. But it his captaincy that will be under the microscope over the next 12 months.
Critics of Kohli suggest his captaincy lacks tactical nous and he reacts to play rather than drives it in the field. His ambassadorial performance is superb, but on the field Kohli must now guide his side through this series, the World T20 and then the Test series at home to England early in 2021. He will also want to gain success with Royal Challengers Bangalore in the upcoming IPL as the star-studded franchise has consistently failed to deliver. When he hangs up his boots it will be periods like this that his leadership will be judged on, particularly after bowing out at the semi-final stage of last year’s World Cup.
Virat Kohli (capt), Shikhar Dhawan, Prithvi Shaw, KL Rahul, Manish Pandey, Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Navdeep Saini, Kuldeep Yadav, Shubman Gill.
IS PRIVTHI A SHAW THING?
The biggest question the Indian selectors must answer is who they opt for as Dhawan’s opening partner. Prithvi Shaw and Shubman Gill are the two young starlets looking for the nod.
Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul and Manish Pandey provide quality in the middle-order.
When weighing up a bet for top Indian series batsman there is a simple decision to make. Do you go with class and proven pedigree and take Virat Kohli or Shikhar Dhawan? Or do you look for greater betting value? I’m taking the second route and gambling that Privthi Shaw will get the nod in the opening berth. The supremely talented 20-year-old is back after suffering injury and then suspension and will be hungry to make up for lost time. His price is too big and that’s what makes backing him tempting.
BUMRAH THE BEST THERE IS
India are without paceman Mohammed Shami and he is a big miss as he has been in superb form for his country since the beginning of last year. The workload he has shouldered during that period has been recognised by the selectors and he will take a well-earned rest.
Wrist spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav will possibly be fighting for just one place in the starting line-up.
Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Navdeep Saini, Yuzvendra Chahal and Jasprit Bumrah are the likely starters for the Men In Blue. Bumrah is the best white ball seam bowler in world cricket, but often that leads to opposition batsmen limiting risks taken against him, patiently sitting on him as they prepare to attack others. Bumrah is talented enough to still take plenty of wickets and is rightly favourite to lead the Indian attack to success.
DE KOCK RISES TO THE CHALLENGE
Quinton de Kock looks like a man made for captaincy. Some players shrink with the pressure, but the new Proteas skipper appears to have grown taller with the fresh challenge. The 27-year-old keeper-batsman scored 107, 11 and 69 in the series defeat to England and, although not as productive with the bat in the recent ODI series against Australia, led his team to a 3-0 home success.
The series win against the Aussies was new coach Mark Boucher’s first since taking charge ahead of the home series against England. Boucher has stated that the players make not shake hands due to the Coronavirus. The series goes ahead however, with none of the three cities hosting the matches currently affected by the global outbreak.
South Africa bring back former skipper Faf du Plessis, who has taken some time out after relinquishing the reins. Much of the chat prior to Faf’s comeback has been around how the team will deal with his reappearance, but he remains a quality player and will be a good sounding board for De Kock, should he wish to take advice. The 35-year-old averages 47.47 across 142 ODIs and, when he last played in the Cricket World Cup in England, his last three innings produced scores of 53, 96 not out and 100. Of course, you’d want him in the South African side. It isn’t like they have a queue of people with that kind of quality knocking the door down.
SOUTH AFRICA SQUAD
Quinton de Kock (capt), Temba Bavuma, Rassie van der Dussen, Faf du Plessis, Kyle Verreynne, Heinrich Klaasen, David Miller, Jon-Jon Smuts, Andile Phehlukwayo, Lundi Ngidi, Lutho Sipamla, Beuran Hendricks, Anrich Nortje, George Linde, Keshav Maharaj.
TAKE THE MARKET VALUE WITH CLASSY KLAASEN
If you are looking for the top Proteas run scorer then the temptation is not to look too far beyond De Kock and Du Plessis. But there are other contenders who, in a short series, have what it takes to score the most runs for their side.
Janneman Malan looks likely to open with the skipper. The 23-year-old, who will play for Leicestershire in the English county summer, was not part of the original 15-man touring party. He scored his maiden century, 129 not out, in the second ODI against Australia in Bloemfontein and was subsequently added to the squad.
Henrich Klaasen enjoyed a stellar series against Australia. The 28-year-old right-hander scored 242 runs in the three matches at an average of 242.00 and with one century and two fifties. Klaasen is a very generous price given his recent success and, despite his lack of experience in Indian conditions, is in the form and confidence of his life.
NGIDI TO STEP UP AGAIN IN RABADA ABSENCE
Kagiso Rabada is a huge miss for South Africa. The fast bowler is out with a groin strain and the pressure will be on Anrich Nortje and Lungi Ngidi to step up, and both have made impressive impacts in recent times. Beuran Hendricks has made a solid start to his international career too, but bowling in the subcontinent is not something the Proteas bowling attack has much experience of.
Left-arm spinner George Linde gets his first call with Tabraiz Shamsi absent as he awaits the birth of his first child. Left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj will play all three games and on potentially turning tracks is worth a look to take wickets, but better value exists in the pace department.
Nigidi took 6-58 in the 2nd ODI against Australia as he took the most wickets for the hosts. He is the most experienced of the South African attack and looks a sensible betting play to cause the Indian team the most problems throughout the series.
INDIA TOO STRONG AT HOME TO OPPOSE
Home advantage is huge for India. Virat Kohli’s side have grown almost unbeatable in their own back yards and with De Kock and Du Plessis the only members of the South African side with experience of playing in India, the hosts should dominate the series.
The Proteas will be seeking a repeat of 2015 when they beat India in India. South Africa were in India in September 2019 when they drew the T20I series 1-1 before going down 3-0 in the three-match Test series.
Dhawan, Kohli, et al should welcome a return to Indian pitches too as they look to build form going into the IPL.
South Africa are a team in transition and one starting to improve. But they may have to chalk this short series off as one for the learning curve.