If the last 18 months were about preparing for the World Cup, then the next 12 months are going to be the same for the World T20 which is scheduled to take place in Australia next year. Both India and South Africa will play a lot of T20s in the lead-up to that World T20 which is slated to start in October 2020.
Moreover, it’s the start of a new home season for the ‘Men in Blue’ where they play a lot of T20 cricket along with a couple of World Test Championship series. There has been a lot of talk around the Indian T20 team and how they need to look at T20 cricket differently. India have often been criticised for playing the shortest format as a shortened version of 50-over cricket.
India’s head coach Ravi Shastri has also talked up the importance of it and how it is a ‘completely different ball game’. India did start their preparation for the World T20 as they played a three-match series in USA and the Caribbean. They blanked the hosts and in fact, won the series rather comfortably. Almost the entire squad has been retained and the only change has been the inclusion of Hardik Pandya in place of Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
However, there are a few question marks over the team selection. Shikhar Dhawan hasn’t been at his best in the shortest format at the international level. He did have a great 2018 but apart from that he has struggled. Meanwhile, KL Rahul hasn’t been in the best of forms in recent times. Hence, who will partner Rohit Sharma at the top? Moreover, uncertainty over the No.4 and 5 positions remain. Manish Pandey played the T20Is against West Indies but Shreyas Iyer got a chance in the ODIs and was very impressive. Meanwhile, the spin-heavy bowling line-up may be competing for two spots. While Krunal Pandya is almost a certain starter, it may well be a shoot-out between Rahul Chahar and Washington Sundar for the second spinner’s slot.
On the other hand, South Africa have a rather inexperienced squad that will be traveling for the T20Is. In fact, only three players from the last tour of 2015 have traveled to India again. Quinton de Kock, David Miller and Kagiso Rabada are those players who were present in the squad in 2015. Moreover, all three of them have a lot of experience playing in India as well, courtesy the IPL.
The Proteas had a fruitful white-ball leg the last time they were here. They blanked India in 2-0 in the three-match T20I series before winning the ODI rubber 3-2. However, it is going to be very different this time around. They will be entering the series as underdogs.
The aforementioned three will form the core of this side. De Kock will be leading South Africa for the first time in T20Is. He has led the side before in a couple of ODI games. Meanwhile, Miller will be the key in the middle-order along with Rassie van der Dussen who was very impressive in the World Cup. Meanwhile, Rabada will lead the pace attack and has a couple of impressive youngsters to support him. Anrich Nortje and Junior Dala are likely to start the series. Meanwhile, Tabraiz Shamsi might be the lone spin option in the XI.
This will be South Africa’s first assignment after a disappointing World Cup. They’ve had a couple of months off and, thus, the Proteas will be looking to start afresh.
Rohit Sharma likes batting against South Africa in the shortest format. He has accumulated 341 runs in 10 innings which includes a hundred and a couple of fifties. However, he has struggled against Junior Dala. The 29-year-old pacer dismissed the Indian vice-captain on all three occasions in the three-match T20I series in South Africa in 2018.
Meanwhile, every time India play South Africa, there is one battle everyone waits for and that is Virat Kohli vs Kagiso Rabada. The latter has dismissed the Indian captain only twice in white-ball cricket so far. On the other hand, the South African middle-order will be put under test against the Indian spinners as well.
India: Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli (c), Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant (wk), Krunal Pandya, Hardik Pandya, Washington Sundar, Deepak Chahar, Navdeep Saini
South Africa: Quinton de Kock (c & wk), Reeza Hendricks, Temba Bavuma, Rassie van der Dussen, David Miller, George Linde, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje, Junior Dala, Tabraiz Shamsi
Overall, in T20Is, India have the edge over the Proteas. They have won eight out of the 13 T20Is the two teams have played. Moreover, this is a pretty inexperienced South African side. Hence, there is no doubt that the Virat Kohli-led side will be favourites going into the series. However, T20 is a very unpredictable format and India will do well not to take South Africa lightly. The pitch in Dharamsala will be a good one for batting and with fast outfields, we may be in for a run-fest.