The much talked about India v South Africa (Nelson Mandela-Mahatma Gandhi) series has finally arrived. The marathon bilateral engagement begins with the 1st T20, set to be played tomorrow at Dharamshala. While the Indians are expected to be in high spirits, especially for the shorter formats, the visiting party have certain reasons to worry about. They were comprehensively routed by an India A side, just a couple of days ago, in a practice T20 match at the Palam A Ground in Delhi.
T20 cricket in the subcontinent – India’s strong suit
When it comes to playing the shortest version inside the subcontinent, the Indians are indeed a force to reckon with. They have truckloads of experience of playing at home, especially in the Indian Premier League. And the Men In Blue had nearly put their authority beyond challenge in the T20 World Cup 2014 in Bangladesh.
Under the familiar leadership of master strategist Mahendra Singh Dhoni, India will look to consolidate upon their home advantage yet again. The chosen squad is filled with players who have been in top form of late. Key members like Suresh Raina and Shikhar Dhawan made strong comebacks in their recent outings for India A. Spinner are expected to play a vital role in the T20s, and both Amit Mishra and Ravichandran Ashwin have happy memories of being among the wickets in the last year’s T20 World Cup. Besides, both looked in fine touch in last month’s Test series against Sri Lanka too. Sreenath Aravind, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohit Sharma shall man the pace bowling department, while one among Axar Patel and Stuart Binny is expected to make it to the all rounder’s slot.
South Africa – Like fish out of water?
Despite being consistently ranked among the top teams in all formats of the game, South Africa are still the ‘nearly men’ of international cricket. And, howsoever hard they try to conceal them, the chinks in their armour come to light every time they are posting an elimination game. However, with most of the new generation of South African players not getting enough exposure to Indian conditions because of the IPL, the present unit is expected to be better prepared to face the upcoming challenges.
Faf du Plessis, Quinton de Kock and JP Duminy were in fine touch in the last edition of the IPL. AB de Villiers’ affinity towards scoring the big runs in India needs no special introduction. All rounder David Wiese had got a new lease of life in this year’s IPL, while playing for the Royal Challengers Bangalore. He is expected to play a handy role down the batting order, especially in the T20s. Albie Morkel, too, has found a place in the T20 side. The big man has been a regular in the last few editions of the IPL, and can trouble the Indians with both bat and ball.
Kagiso Rabada, Imran Tahir, Eddie Leie, Chris Morris, Marchant de Lange and Kyle Abbott make up the bowling department. Keeping in mind the requirements of the upcoming T20 World Cup 2016, to be played in India, Abbott, Tahir and Morris look set to be in the playing XI for the T20s. A surprise element in the form of Rabada of Leie may also be thrown into the mix.