After their six-wicket victory at Durban, an upbeat Indian team travel to the Highveld, where they face a weakened South Africa in the second fixture of the six-match ODI series at Centurion.
Virat Kohli's team, for the first time in the ongoing tour, can be rightly be termed favourites to go 2-0 up come Sunday. While the rousing win at Kingsmead certainly would boost their spirits, it is also the fact the neither star batsman AB de Villiers nor captain Faf du Plessis will ply their services for the hosts at the Supersport Park, with the latter getting ruled out for the remaining limited-overs fixtures against the Indians.
Du Plessis's exit, the cause of which is believed to be a fractured finger that was sustained during the first one-dayer, comes as a massive blow for the Proteas, given the magnificent 120 that he produced in the series opener and the fact that he is a man in form at the moment. Take the dynamic leader of the equation, and the Proteas almost appear leaderless.
In the hour of crisis, the South African selectors have appointed young Aiden Markram as the stand-in captain for the remainder of the ODI series. Markram is relatively new to the international scene, having only made his international debut against Bangladesh a few months ago, and getting fast-tracked into captaincy might come across as quite the challenge to him.
While he does have the traits of a successful leader, having led the junior Proteas to title triump in the 2014 U-19 World Cup, captaining the senior team will be a different challenge altogether. The hosts will hope that the pressure of captaincy doesn't take a toll on his batting form, as he is already fighting for place in the limited-overs side.
Farhaan Behardien and Heinrich Klaasen have been called up to the side in the wake of du Plessis' and de Villiers' injuries, the latter getting his maiden Proteas call-up. Behardien has been having a superb run in the domestic one-day tournament, and is a favourite to get slotted into the middle-order for the second one-dayer. Titans wicket-keeper-batsman Klaasen's inclusion is being perceived as something of a wake-up call for the under-performing de Kock, so that the latter gets back among the runs before its too late.
The Indian dressing room, on the other hand, would be a much more relaxed one at the moment, even though they still have a long way to go before they can fly back home with a trophy or two in hand. Kohli is back among the runs, having slammed his 33rd one-day ton at Durban, and is raring to top the batting charts in the ODI leg of the tour as well.
One of the biggest talking points of the first one-dayer was Ajinkya Rahane's well-paced innings of 79 batting at No 4. The Mumbai batsman has had to spend a lot of time warming the bench in the past, given the fact that he was considered a back-up opener to the in-form Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan. The team management's decision to re-slot the senior batsman at No 4 has paid the dividends for both the batsman and the team, and he will have to produce a couple of such knocks in the coming matches to make himself a first-choice for that position.
The decision to go with two wrist spinners at Durban also worked wonders for the Indians, as Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal helped stem the flow of runs in the middle overs of the South African innings, which built pressure on the opposition batsmen and led to breakthroughs. The Centurion track was described as 'subcontinent-like' when the two teams met for the second Test, and even though the Proteas will persuade curator Bryan Bloy to make it more 'South African' in nature, the popular perception is that there will be a lot in the pitch for both batsmen and spinners.
The fact that is it hasn't quite rained in that part of the country, as well as the heat in and around Pretoria has contributed to the track hardening up, which could lead to the formation of cracks on the playing surface.
The defeat at this venue in the Test series might have left a bad taste in the mouth for the Indians, especially Kohli. With as many as two ODIs and a T20I scheduled to take place at this venue in the remainder of the tour, including the second ODI, the tourists need to put the loss behind and start off on a fresh note in their pursuit of toppling the Proteas off the No 1 rank. The hosts, on the other hand, will hope to witness Markram experiencing success as a leader in the highest form of the game, one that hopefully projects him as someone who can take over the baton from Faf in the future.
India: Virat Kohli (c), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Dinesh Karthik, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Axar Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Shardul Thakur.
South Africa: Aiden Markram (c), Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock (wk), JP Duminy, Imran Tahir, David Miller, Farhaan Behardien, Heinrich Klaasen, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Lungi Ngidi, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Khayelihle Zondo.
Where: SuperSport Park, Centurion.
Time: 10 am local | 1.30 pm IST