After concluding their New Zealand tour earlier this month on a forgettable note following the Test series defeat, a Virat Kohli-led India will aim to start afresh when they host South Africa in a short three-match ODI series.
The last time Proteas were in India was in September last year, and while they drew the T20I series 1-1, they suffered an embarrassing 0-3 defeat in the Test series, with all of their losses coming via heavy margins. No doubt, revenge will be on their minds this time. Indeed, they are coming on the back of an emphatic 3-0 ODI series win over Australia on home turf where they displayed an all-round performance.
The three ODIs will be played over six days commencing from 12 March in Dharamshala. The second and third one-dayers will be played in Lucknow and Kolkata respectively.
While South Africa have been dealt with a blow following Kagiso Rabada's injury, Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Shikhar Dhawan have returned to the hosts' squad.
Ahead of the series, here are a few players to keep an eye on:
Although India lost the three-match ODI series against New Zealand, Shreyas Iyer was one of the few Indian batsmen who enjoyed consistently good results in the 50-over format in Kiwiland. He registered scores of 103, 53 and 62 in those matches and ended up as one of the only two Indian centurions in that series - the other being KL Rahul. His batting position has been a talking point quite often, and each of these knocks came when he was batting at number four. In fact, apart from the century he recently scored, he has gone onto register four fifties batting in this position in ODIs.
In a series where Virat Kohli endured a rare failure after aggregating just 75 runs across three games, Iyer ended up as the leading run-scorer with 217 runs, 13 ahead of KL Rahul (204). While he has had a pretty long break since the series got over on 11 February, he did play in Karnataka’s Ranji Trophy semi-final against Bengal, where he scored just 26 runs.
In the absence of experienced campaigner Kagiso Rabada who has been out with an injury, Lungi Ngidi will lead the Proteas bowling attack this time around along with another experienced cricketer Andile Phehlukwayo.
Ngidi is coming fresh off scalping 10 wickets in the three ODIs against Australia, which even included lethal figures of 6/58 in the final match of the series.
He even boasts of a decent record against India in the 50-over format, where he has taken eight wickets in four games — this includes a four-wicket spell in 2018.
All-rounder Hardik Pandya is all set to don Indian colours once again after being named in the squad for the upcoming series. He has not played for India since representing them in a T20I at home against the Proteas in September after which he underwent successful back surgery.
As a result, he was ruled out for a few months after undergoing the surgery in October and this time, he will come back refreshed.
He even produced a few destructive performances in the DY Patil T20 tournament in Mumbai for Reliance 1, where he amassed scores of 105 (off just 39 balls), a 29-ball knock of 46 and an unbeaten knock of 158 off just 55 deliveries.
If the scores are anything to go by, it may seem that he may have finally found his rhythm again, and the South Africa series is the perfect stage for him to make his return to international cricket.
South Africa’s Heinrich Klaasen is currently enjoying a rich vein of form. His knocks of 123*, 51 and 68* earned him the player of the series awards against Australia, and else ended up as the leading run-getter in the ODI series with 242 runs.
He was in such dominant form that Jaanemann Malan, who was the second-best run-getter, was as far as 90 runs behind him.
He has the ability to stick around and build strong partnerships, and could be a potential match-finisher if it boils down to a high-pressure situation.
In a major boost for India, Shikhar Dhawan returns to the setup after recovering from a shoulder injury which eventually ruled him out of the New Zealand tour.
However, barring missing out on the tour to the Kiwi nation, the Delhi opener has had a decent run in 2020 so far — scoring 274 runs in four innings across T20Is and ODIs.
Dhawan, in fact, enjoys a tremendous record against Proteas in ODIs, having scored 798 runs in 18 matches at an average of 49.87.
He even came close to scoring a century against Australia in the second ODI at Rajkot, where he was dismissed for 96 by Kane Richardson.
Dhawan never fails to put up a fight against any opponent, and the Proteas should be wary of his power-hitting skills, which could prove to be costly.
In the absence of the rested Rohit Sharma, he will most likely open with Prithvi Shaw, who will also aim to put up a much-improved show after a moderate tour to New Zealand.
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