India will face South Africa in the 1st ODI in Lucknow on Thursday, October 6th, the same day that those involved in the T20I World Cup are scheduled to fly out to Australia. That means that Shikhar Dhawan will lead a second string outfit into a match scheduled to begin at 11.30 am local time.
Although the series may lack the significance of the T20I matches between the two, that does not mean it is without meaning, For India, hosting the longer form of the World Cup next year, it is a chance to try out some new players, whilst others may regard it as a chance to claim their time in the spotlight in the absence of more senior colleagues.
World Cup standbys involved
Three of the standbys for the World Cup – Shreyas Iyer, Ravi Bishnoi and Deepak Chahar – have been named in the 16 man squad, and will fly to Australia to join the rest of the party after the conclusion of the series.
For Chahar, who has bowled well in the T20I series against the South Africans, this could be a golden opportunity. Now that it has been confirmed that Jasprit Bumrah will definitely miss the World Cup with the back injury he has sustained, there is a vacant spot in the squad. Whilst both Mohammad Shami and Mohammad Siraj are being considered as replacements, another good performance could see him force his way to the front of the queue.
Both Rajat Patidar and Mukesh Kumar have earned maiden call-ups to the India squad for this ODI series.
Patidar, who is hardly a greenhorn at the age of 29, has earned his place after excelling in the recent India A unofficial three match test series against New Zealand. The top order batter made 176 in the first match and followed that up with an unbeaten 109 in the third. He earlier had made 122 in the first innings for Madhya Pradesh which helped them win the Ranji Trophy for the first time.
Right arm medium pacer Kumar, too five wickets in the first match in Bangalore against the Kiwis, and finished joint highest wicket taker, with his eight victims coming at an average of 21/78. He also featured prominently in the latter stages of the Ranji Trophy.
Among the other returnees in the India squad are Shahbaz Ahmed. He was called up as a replacement for the injured Washington Sundar for the brief tour of Zimbabwe but failed to subsequently feature in any of the matches.
Rahul Tripathi equally is given another chance. He travelled to India and England earlier this year but did not play in any of the matches.
South Africa at full strength
Unlike India, South Africa will be at full strength – they could not afford the luxury of flying a completely new team out just for three games – and many of the same personnel who have featured in the T20I series will also play in these matches.
It means that the team will continue to be led by Temba Bavuma, under huge pressure for his World Cup place after a series of disappointing scores with the bat, and he may regard this as a last chance to redeem himself.
Their bowlers have also struggled for rhythm In India, and this could be another chance to try and get the fundamentals of line and length right.
Head to head record
The two teams have faced each other 87 times previously in ODI cricket, and South Africa leads their head to head series by 49 wins to 35 to India, with three matches producing a no result.
Their most recent meetings came earlier this year in South Africa, when the two teams played a three match ODI series. The home team won all three matches.
Whilst India have the benefit of playing in home conditions, they will be playing a largely second string outfit, whilst South Africa have virtually their full squad available to them. That suggests that the tourists may have the edge, but individual performances may matter almost as much as the result given the overall context of this match.
Arguably, this series means more to South Africa than India because many of the same players will hope to be involved in the World Cup later this month and some of them will still feel they have a lot to prove to nail down their places.
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