Since India’s exit from the World Cup last year, the Men In Blue have been in terrific form. They defeated West Indies at their home and maintained the supremacy in the following series against South Africa, Bangladesh, Windies, and Australia respectively. However, Virat Kohli & co. were handed a reality check in the recently concluded tour to New Zealand, where they won the T20Is but failed drastically in the 50-over and the traditional format of the sport.
After the mauling by Kiwis, India would aim to return to winning ways when they host South Africa in a three-match ODI series. While it might not be a daunting task for the Indians to overpower the Proteas at home, Kohli won’t make the mistake to take Quinton de Kock and his men lightly. The visitors have not fetched great results in their recent outings, but they do have the potential to surprise the best on their day.
The contest will kick-off at the picturesque venue in Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh, which has not been a very happy ground for India in the 50-over format. India have played a total of four ODIs at this venue, out of which they have won two. In fact, in the previous encounter at this venue, which took over two years ago, India suffered a crushing seven-wicket defeat against Sri Lanka.
If we look at the conditions, it has supported the bowlers, and India have just managed to eclipse the 300-run-mark on one occasion, while others are yet to achieve this feat.
Questions that lie ahead for the Men In Blue
Virat Kohli’s patchiness
After their first bilateral series defeat against the Black Caps in six years, Kohli asserted that this format holds very little importance in this calendar year as compared to T20Is and Tests, referring to the upcoming T20 World Cup and the engrossing tussle for World Test Championship. “ODIs aren’t too relevant this year compared to Tests and T20s,” is what Kohli had said after the 22-run defeat against New Zealand in the second T20I in Auckland.
But the skipper himself went through a rough patch in this particular outing, managing just a single half-century in the one-month tour. This was very uncharacteristic of Kohli, someone who has been the spine of India’s batting. His aggression both on and off the pitch, something that has helped him excel over the past years, fell crashing in the shores of New Zealand. The Indian skipper could only accumulate a total of 218 runs (105 in 4 T20Is, 75 in 3 ODIs, 38 in 2 Tests) in the entire tour.
Out of touch seamers
Apart from the skipper, India’s premier pacer Jasprit Bumrah also struggled for consistency, a major reason behind the team’s downfall in the New Zealand tour. While the lanky seamer went wicketless in the ODIs, he also failed to make an impression with the red ball picking six wickets in total, out of which five came in the final Test in Christchurch.
Bumrah’s counterparts also remained ineffective throughout the tourney, with inexperienced candidates Shardul Thakur and Navdeep Saini facing the wrath of Kiwis. The former in particular was the most expensive out of the lot, leaking over eight runs an over in the first and third match of the ODI series.
The Indian seamers between them bowled almost 86 overs and took just five of the 19 New Zealand wickets that fell in the ODIs.
Dhawan, Bhuvi, Hardik return to the scene
Dhawan, who scored 69 in the final of the DY Patil T20 Cup, is likely to pair up with KL Rahul at the top, while Hardik’s addition will provide more depth in the current middle-order setup. The all-rounder after recovering from his back injury has been in superlative form, in both departments of the game.
Batting with a strike-rate of over 230, Hardik amassed 347 in five innings, including two centuries. In terms of bowling, the right-arm medium pacer emerged as the leading wicket-taker of the tournament with 14 scalps in five matches. Hardik’s inclusion in the side also solves the issue of an extra seamer, something that Team India missed in their recent outing in New Zealand.
After the poor display in New Zealand, the management would look to rejig their pace setup. And now with 100 percent fit Bhuvenshwar making his comeback, it will take the added burden from Bumrah of being the senior candidate.
Proteas finally get the result they’ve been waiting for
After months of struggle, it seems that things are finally falling in place for the Proteas and their recent clean sweep over Australia, comes at the right moment. The Proteas won the three-match series convincingly and what’s more important is their players finding form of late.
With two fifties and one century, middle-order batsman Heinrich Klaasen emerged as the leading run-scorer in the series. Among the bowlers, it was Lungi Ngidi and Anrich Nortje who dismantled the Aussie batting line-up and would hope to do the same in India.
Despite the overwhelming results, questions will still ponder over their most experienced candidate skipper De Kock and Faf du Plessis over their inconsistency.
India: Shikhar Dhawan, Prithvi Shaw, Virat Kohli (c), KL Rahul, Manish Pandey, Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Navdeep Saini, Kuldeep Yadav, Shubman Gill
South Africa: Quinton de Kock (c & wk), Temba Bavuma, Rassie van der Dussen, Faf du Plessis, Kyle Verreynne, Heinrich Klaasen, David Miller, Jon-Jon Smuts, Andile Phehlukwayo, Lungi Ngidi, Lutho Sipamla, Beuran Hendricks, Anrich Nortje, George Linde, Keshav Maharaj
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