The T20I series between hosts India and South Africa finally got underway in the second match at Mohali with a familiar sight- an India win.
And now, Bengaluru’s M Chinnaswamy Stadium will gear up to welcome the familiar India captain Virat Kohli and his team when they take on the Proteas for one final time in the game’s shorter format.
Kohli is someone with immense experience who enjoys playing at the Garden City. While the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) batsman has 5412 runs in his 12-year IPL career, believe it or not, he has only played four T20Is at the iconic ground.
Interestingly, the Delhi batsman’s highest T20I score in Bengaluru is 72, that is, exactly the score he registered in the previous game which the Men in Blue clinched by seven wickets.
But the upcoming T20I may not be only about Kohli after-all.
The major focus, apart from the Indian skipper, will be on the heavily-criticised Rishabh Pant, who has come under scrutiny for his poor shot selection in recent times.
In fact, Pant, seen as MS Dhoni’s potential successor across formats, has had a forgettable outing in his last six T20Is, enduring a run of five single-figure scores in as many games, while his only other recent useful contribution came in the third T20I against West Indies at Guyana, where he remained unbeaten on 65 in a match-winning cause.
Pant’s questionable form could also see him swapping batting positions with Shreyas Iyer; Iyer could be promoted to number four and Pant a position below that.
Despite all the talk about Pant, Shikhar Dhawan, in the pre-match press conference on Saturday stressed on the importance of grooming youngsters like Pant and Iyer.
"For senior players like us, say someone like Rishabh comes in to bat or Shreyas coming in, we make sure we do the communication with them and make sure they are comfortable and not nervous. We make them think what is needed at that particular moment," he said.
India play at least 15 T20Is from now till the ICC T20 World Cup in Australia next year. This means it might be too early to criticise a player like Pant and the team management should just focus on building a consistent middle-order with Pant in it.
The hosts may also be tempted to bring in a seamer in Khaleel Ahmed over a spinner due to the short boundaries at the Chinnaswamy Stadium.
Meanwhile, Krunal Pandya, who bowled just one over in the second T20I, might also make way to Rahul Chahar, who made his T20I debut against West Indies in August.
Nothing much has gone right for South Africa since their disastrous exit from the World Cup, on the other hand.
Speaking of which, their major takeaways from the Mohali T20I were only the fine knocks from Quinton de Kock (52) and Temba Bavuma (49), who made his T20I debut.
And if someone had to revive the team’s batting woes, it could well be David Miller, who looks more experienced in T20Is than most of the others with 71 T20Is to his name.
It is not only for Kohli, but also for his counterpart Quinton de Kock who has enjoyed a good batting run in Bengaluru.
Quinton de Kock, who has been part of Virat Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) squad in the IPL, has amassed 384 runs in 10 innings in the tournament’s matches held in Bengaluru, while he also has a century to his name at the ground while playing for Delhi Capitals.
Meanwhile, Sunday will be another opportunity for Reeza Hendricks to prove his worth as an opener, with the Proteas still looking for answers following a host of retirements including Hashim Amla and Imran Tahir.
In fact, he came up with superb match-winning knocks against Sri Lanka on home turf with two back-to-back fifties back in March.
And now, Hendricks has been in India for almost a month- He has registered scores of 110, 60 and 59* in three of the five unofficial ODIs for South Africa A against India A, which means he could be hungry for more.
The visitors, though, will hope that Kagiso Rabada be able to find back his form. The pacer had a satisfying out in England during the World Cup, picking up 11 wickets, but failed to impress in the last match at Mohali.
Well, yes, Kohli leading from the front was a dangerous sight to see for any South African, but once again, the task will be cut out to see off the Indian top-order as quick as possible.
With the short boundaries not going to assist the spinners much, de Kock might be persuaded to go ahead with Junior Dala, who has 13 wickets in his short nine-match T20I career.
All in all, the Proteas will be looking for a quick turnaround and a change of fortunes after their disappointing show in Mohali.
India: Virat Kohli (captain), Rohit Sharma (vice-captain), Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Rishabh Pant (wicket-keeper), Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Krunal Pandya, Washington Sundar, Rahul Chahar, Khaleel Ahmed, Deepak Chahar, Navdeep Saini.
South Africa: Quinton de Kock (captain), Rassie van der Dussen (vice-captain), Temba Bavuma, Junior Dala, Bjorn Fortuin, Beuran Hendricks, Reeza Hendricks, David Miller, Anrich Nortje, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Jon-Jon Smuts.
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