Try-outs Begin, Like India, South Africa, The Next In The T20 WC > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more
Cricket news - Try-outs begin as India, South Africa look ahead to the T20 WC
Rohit Sharma, clad in the sparkling new team jersey that was due to be unveiled moments later, strode out with a bat in hand on the side of the Dharamsala strip that was being given its final touches, a member of the support staff in tow. And barely a dozen throwdowns later, went running back for cover. The predicted afternoon rainfall took over, threatening to wash away India's only practice session scheduled ahead of the T20I series opener against South Africa.
Even with the little indoor nets they could get - as opposed to South Africa's week of blood, sweat and tears in the unrelenting heat - India start as overwhelming favourites.
In their limited T20I rivalry, South Africa do boast of a 100% win record against India in India; and in the current standings are placed just above their hosts on No. 3. But this South African team bears very little resemblance to the ones that achieved those feats, as is the case with any team in transition. This 14-member touring party has a combined experience of 210 T20Is. That's nine less than India's - wait for it - top-three alone. One of the three players who remains from the successful 2015 tour has played one-third of this 210, while the other has barely three games to his name since the last T20 WC in 2016. That's about how much the gulf there is between the two sides - at least on paper.
Nonetheless, as the old adage goes, on the day even one madcap individual performance is enough to turn the tables. That's precisely what South Africa would be hoping for in the three-match series while they piece their team together in the backdrop.
India is, by no means, an easy place to tour, and in a World Cup year, you'd expect a team to put together their best available resources. That ain't the case here, at least to start off their preparations with. South Africa are understandably remodeling after the debacle called the World Cup 2019, and there are gaping holes in the batting order, part due to retirements and part due to some bizarre non-selections. Quinton de Kock will consequently be shouldering the responsibility of this vastly inexperienced batting line-up with his deputy Rassie van der Dussen, who'd be expected to replicate his World Cup form and the uncapped yet reliable Temba Bavuma. David Miller is another one of the long-standing links, and while he may not be the finisher he once was not so long ago, he doubles up as one of the handful of experienced personnel on tour who need step up if South Africa were to pose any serious threat for India.
This is not to suggest that India's T20 game is in the pink of health. Far from it, by their own admission. There's a willingness to adapt and learn from the mistakes, though.
It starts with the batting itself which, even with two of the premier batsmen in their ranks, needs to fall in place, particularly the hotly-debated middle-order roles. India may not have entirely fallen out of love with KL Rahul yet, but Shikhar Dhawan did seem to earn his form and confidence back in the series against South Africa A to be the first-choice opening partner for Rohit on Sunday despite dwindling returns in T20Is all year long. And the never-ending search for better team balance leaves no room for the third prospective opener to be accommodated down the order anymore.
The hosts have preferred Shreyas Iyer for the longer of the two white-ball formats, but with his runs in the West Indies ODIs - especially the quickfire 65 not out in a rain-curtailed Game 3 - he might have pipped the underwhelming Manish Pandey in the race for India's interchangeable No. 4-5 in the shortest format too. There's more cushion for Rishabh Pant now with the return of Hardik Pandya, allowing him more time and breathing space to settle into the role of the finisher. In any case, the more all-rounders India are looking to pack in their line-up offers a tad bit more freedom to everyone that bat above them.
Moreover, for this series in particular, also provides a cover for the lack of.expertise in the pace-bowling department - a weakness South Africa openly admitted are looking to exploit.
When: India vs South Africa, 1st T20I, Sunday, September 15 at 7 pm IST | 1:30pm GMT
Where: Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium, Dharamsala
What to expect: It's rained, and quite heavily so, for two nights in a row in the lead-up and there's a definite chill in the air once the sun sets. On top of it, there are showers forecast for the match day, though likely that it'll subside by the time the game is scheduled to get underway. Expect the conditions and expected dew to have a say in the team makeup. The pitch has a fair tinge of green but how much of it is still there tomorrow remains to be seen. For now, it's under three firm layers of covers and unlikely to get any more time in the sun.
India: As unsettled as India's batting is at the moment, it's the bowling that bears an undercooked look and throws up various permutations to try what provides best balance. India have used Washington Sundar in the powerplay and might be tempted at the prospect of the match-up between him and Quinton de Kock. Conversely, he might become the causality due to the impending return of Hardik. New-ball specialist Deepak Chahar along with the express pace of Saini will likely round off India's attack together with Krunal and Jadeja.
Probable XI: Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli (C), Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant (wk), Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Washington Sundar/Rahul Chahar, Deepak Chahar, Navdeep Saini
South Africa: Lance Klusener backed Temba Bavuma against the red-ball specialist allegations, all but confirming his T20I debut on Sunday. For all the talk of inexperience in their batting, the squad is actually well-stocked with handy all-rounders and that is all South Africa might need to look at instead of trying to unearth the next wonder-kid. It'll be a toss-up between Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius and uncapped left-arm spin all-rounder George Linde depending upon what make-up South Africa are looking at. Tabraiz Shamsi has a brilliant opportunity to step out of the shadows of Imran Tahir and nail down his spot. The pace department, led by Kagiso Rabada, has ample prospects to not feel the pinch left by Lungi Ngidi's absence. Junior Dala's impressive record against Rohit could earn him a spot in the starting eleven. Anrich Nortje played a vital hand in South Africa A's lone win in the recent series by triggering a late Indian collapse and could have well earned his maiden cap through it.
Probable XI: Quinton de Kock (c), Reeza Hendricks, Rassie van der Dussen, Temba Bavuma, David Miller, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada, Beuran Hendricks, Junior Dala/Anrich Nortje, Tabraiz Shamsi.
Did you know?
- India have a 1-2 win-loss record in limited-overs series openers in Dharamsala. They lost the only game they played against South Africa here, despite Rohit's maiden T20I hundred.
What they said
"Looking at the Indian team, that is an area we are going to take advantage of. They are great cricketers and we are not taking anything away from that and our focus will be on ourselves and little areas that we can take advantage and maybe that's one of them," Lance Klusener, South Africa's white-ball assistant batting coach, on India's amateur bowling attack
"Look, experience is always going to matter whether you like it or not. I mean there are a numerous number of times people have given up on sportsmen and they have proved people wrong and he has done that many times in his career as well. So one great thing about him is that he thinks for India cricket. And whatever we think, he is on the same page. The alignment is there," Indian captain Virat Kohli on where MS Dhoni fits in his plans for the T20 side if at all.
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