Aakash Sivasubramaniam
27 Sep 2022 | 12:37 PM

Fresh opponent but goal remains WT20 for India

South Africa will provide a stern test to India’s WT20 plans

You know this stage leading into the Indian Premier League playoffs, where the commentators go, “The games are coming thick and fast,” this is the international version of the same. India are just three matches away from kick starting their T20 World Cup campaign, against Australia on October 17 in the first warm-up game.

So, they need this three-match series against South Africa to go the best possible way. On the other hand, South Africa know these conditions pretty well. They were only here back in June and are back again to give India a stern test. But for the Proteas, their skipper Temba Bavuma is back, who will play his first game in a while after recovering from his injury.

With Rassie van der Dussen, one of South Africa’s vital cogs ruled out, it would be interesting to see the makeup of the South Africa top-order. Alongside that, it would also be note-worthy to see whether Heinrich Klaasen will force himself back into the conversation or will the Proteas stick with Tristan Stubbs?

India’s pace attack needs to step up

It is a no-brainer at this point, isn’t it? India’s trouble with the ball was well noted during their three-match T20I series against Australia. All of their three pacers – Harshal Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah – have conceded 40 runs at one point during the three-match series.

Bhuvneshwar’s woes at the death coupled with Harshal’s unremarkable return — 1 wicket @ ER 12.37 — has left everyone wondering what India’s actual first-choice pace attack is. With the Uttar Pradesh pacer not available for this series, it presents an opportunity to Arshdeep Singh, who could stake a claim for a place in the playing XI.

Also Read: With World Cup looming, India have one last chance to fine-tune plans

Arshdeep’s ability to take the new ball, swing it both ways, coupled with the fact that he is perhaps one of the best death-over bowlers in the Indian Premier League, makes him an obvious choice. India’s bowling display in overs (16-20) against Australia was 13.5 and the hosts just picked up two wickets in that phase, conceding 63 runs per wicket.

India’s pace attack definitely will be under the radar, after the terrible display earlier on.

How will Temba Bavuma fare?

When South Africa’s WT20 squad was announced, Temba Bavuma was a definite conversation starter. In Bavuma’s absence, the Proteas had a top-order that was packing quite a punch. Against the Three Lions, in the three innings, the visiting top-order (1-3), scored 328 runs – with a strike-rate of 156-2 – averaging a high 41.

Bavuma’s profile, at least in the batting sense, has never been on the same page as the others. The right-hander’s T20I numbers, a strike-rate of 120.60, is quite underwhelming in the larger scheme of things. But he is their captain and his dwindling return this year, of 20.33 and 103.38, makes it extremely interesting.

In the skipper’s absence, Reeza Hendricks showed his prowess, with an astonishing average of 60 and a strike-rate of 156.52. Coupled with the presence of Rilee Rossouw, a strong left-handed batter in the middle-order, this is the best possible chance for South Africa to let the world take notice of them.

So, the onus really is on Bavuma to up his T20I game, considering how this might be the strongest unit that could challenge the others for a T20I title.

Battle of two batting Goliaths

While India’s batting approach over the last year has drastically improved, South Africa have always been a fiery side with the bat. Amongst the top ten ranked T20I teams, India have the best balls/boundary and possess the second-best batting average and strike-rate. In last year’s showpiece event in the Middle East, India’s batting was a major part of the debate, whether they needed to be conscious about their wickets at the top. 

But India have quashed all of that now, shedding the conservatism skin. South Africa, meanwhile, have slowly put on great batting displays this year, in the shortest format. The Proteas batters strike at 150, average 28.4/wicket and find boundaries almost as quick as India do (5.1 deliveries).

The last time these two sides met, the visiting batters put on a show in Delhi, where they chased down a record total. So, it is clear that South Africa possess a deadly batting unit. This series will be a real showdown, if the pitches are as they were during the series against Australia.  

Team combination and predicted XIs

With no Hardik Pandya and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, expect at least two changes for India for the opening T20I here in Thiruvananthapuram. Arshdeep Singh, who returns to the setup after a break might slot straight back in the playing XI. Instead of Pandya, will Rishabh Pant get another look-in?

India XI: Rohit Sharma (c), KL Rahul, Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant (wk), Dinesh Karthik, Harshal Patel, Axar Patel, Jasprit Bumrah, Arshdeep Singh, Yuzvendra Chahal.

Predicting an XI can be tough for teams but in South Africa’s case, it might be trickier. With Bavuma returning to the setup, expect Hendricks to drop down to the bench. The only other question is does Stubbs play?

South Africa XI: Quinton de Kock (wk), Temba Bavuma (c), Rilee Rossouw, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Tristan Stubbs, Dwaine Pretorius/Wayne Parnell, Keshav Maharaj, Anrich Nortje, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi.

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