India will face South Africa in the first of five T20Is on Thursday 9th June, at the Arun Jaitley Stadium in New Delhi. The match is scheduled to begin at 7 pm local time.
The two sides met just over six months ago, when India toured South Africa, although their visit did n not include any T20I matches. Nevertheless, having lost the test series by two matches to one and having been whitewashed in the ODIs, India may feel some revenge is in order.
Much Changed India
After the demands of the IPL and an almost non-stop diary of cricket before that, the Indian selectors have decided to rest a number of star players for this series. It means there will be no Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli or Jasprit Bumrah, for example, whose abilities are already well-known.
Instead KL Rahul will lead the side fresh from his exploits in the IPL where he captained Lucknow Super Giants. In their inaugural season, he led them to the play-offs and finished second behind Jos Buttler in the race for the Orange Cap.
The series gives the selectors a chance to try out fresh players and there is every incentive for those who get their chance to seize the opportunity and force themselves into the reckoning for the World Cup later this year.
Emerging New Indian Talent
Arshdeep Singh and Umran Malik, both of whom caught the eye in the IPL this year, are two whose performances will be watched very closely in the coming days. Arshdeep has proved his ability to cope with the pressure of bowling in the death overs and there are hopes that he can finally end the long search for a potent left armed pace bowler.
As for Malik, who was winner of the IPL Emerging Player of the Year award and who was consistently the fastest bowler on show in the league, many will be hoping that he can now translate that form to the international arena. If he can, he could have a long career at that level.
Can India Solve Their Opening Problem?
One of the problems that India have faced in recent years in T20I cricket has been their inability to maximise the Powerplay overs at the start of the innings.
Statistics from the World Cup last year indicated that the four teams who made it to the semi-finals all averaged over 40 from the powerplay overs, compared to India’s 35. They need to find a combination that can score runs from the very first ball if they are to close the gap.
With Rahul sure to be handed one of the opening slots, the likes of Ruturaj Gaikwad, Shreyas Iyer, and Venkatesh Iyer could all be given their chance over the course of the series to show their mettle.
Full Strength South Africa
By contrast, South Africa, led by their one day captain Temba Bavuma, have sent a virtually full squad to India for this tour.
It means virtually all their IPL contingent, such as Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Rassie van der Dussen, and David Miller will all be expected to play some part, whilst Quinton de Kock will be looking to replicate the form that saw him clinch third place in the Orange Cap race behind LSG team mate KL Rahul.
One newcomer in their ranks is Tristan Stubbs, who has received his maiden international call-up. The 21-year-old impressed playing domestic cricket for the Gbets Warriors and was part of the South Africa A team that visited Zimbabwe before he earned his own call-up to the IPL with the Mumbai Indians.
Meanwhile, Wayne Parnell has earned a recall after a five-year absence.
The Crowds are back
The five match series will be played with no restrictions as far as crowd capacity is concerned, which means all the games should be played in front of full grounds – something that should favour the home side.
Had India boasted a full strength squad, then they would have started as clear favourites for this match and series, but the experimental nature of their side makes this a much more unpredictable event.
Many of the South African squad are now battle hardened to playing in Indian conditions after their experiences of playing in the IPL and will not be fazed by the crowd or the occasion.
If India, though, have serious ambitions of winning the World Cup later this year, they will need strength in depth.
Can anybody grasp the opportunity offered to them?
VISIT OUR BLG TO GET YOUR FIX FOR ALL OF THE MOST CURRENT CRICKET NEWS STORIES & FEATURES