This three-match ODI series against South Africa offers little consequence. Also, after the ODI series defeat in New Zealand, India captain Virat Kohli had spoken about the irrelevance of the 50-over format this year, when the main focus for the team would be the ongoing World Test Championship and the T20 World Cup in Australia in October-November.
And yet, this series offers the Indian team an opportunity to soothe bruised egos after the hiding they received in New Zealand.
Here’s how the playing XI could look like —
Shikhar Dhawan: The left-hander is back in the team after recovering from a shoulder injury and his experience is a value addition at the top of the order.
Prithvi Shaw/Shubman Gill: In Rohit Sharma’s absence – out with a calf injury – it would be between Shaw and Gill to partner Dhawan. Shaw had opened in the ODIs in New Zealand, got starts but couldn’t convert them to big scores. In limited overs cricket, especially in India, where the ball doesn’t move much and the pitches don’t aid steep bounce, the chinks in Shaw’s technique, especially against the short ball, will be masked. Also, Shaw is probably a better stroke-player than Gill. The latter, however, is a well-rounded batsman, with a better technique and a tighter game. For the series opener, though, Shaw could be the team management’s preferred choice.
Virat Kohli: On the heels of a poor series in New Zealand, this is Kohli’s opportunity to return to form. South Africa would be without the injured strike bowler Kagiso Rabada as well.
Shreyas Iyer: After a century and two half-centuries in the ODIs in New Zealand, Iyer has cemented his place at No. 4.
KL Rahul: On form, he is the team’s best batsman in white-ball cricket at the moment.
Manish Pandey: Being in and out of the playing XI hasn’t helped Pandey. But now that Kedar Jadhav’s international career is seemingly over, Pandey deserves a longer run in the middle-order.
Hardik Pandya: He returns to international cricket after six months. As Pandya underwent a back surgery, India missed his power-hitting, seam bowling and fielding in the shorter formats. He will help the side strike the right balance if he is able to hit the ground running.
— BCCI (@BCCI) March 10, 2020
Ravindra Jadeja: Jadeja, along with Ishant Sharma (who missed the second Test because of injury) were the best bowlers in New Zealand. He can suffocate the batsmen with his accuracy and pierce out crucial wickets. His batting down the order and electric all-round fielding make him a match-winner.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar: Sports hernia had sidelined him. The team management would welcome his return to the fold. Shardul Thakur had failed to rise to the required level in his absence.
Kuldeep Yadav/Yuzvendra Chahal: One of the reasons why Kuldeep has lost his mystery is that nowadays the majority of the batsmen just play the length when they face him. Chahal had replaced him for the last two ODIs in New Zealand and accounted for six wickets. The leggie is expected to retain his place.
Jasprit Bumrah: Still hasn’t returned to his best after coming back from a lower-back injury. Bumrah, along with Kohli and Rohit Sharma, has been a vital cog in the wheel of the Indian team. The fast bowler is capable of taking wickets with the new ball, in the middle order and can turn the game on its head in the death. However, since his comeback, the zip off the wicket has been missing and he has not been as consistent as he used to be with his line and length. If Bumrah’s below-par form (he is a victim of the high standards he has set) continues, it would be interesting to see if the rest of the bowling line-up can hold it together and create pressure. A less than 100 percent Bumrah will also test the captaincy skills of Kohli.
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