All the way back when this India vs. South Africa series began in October 2019, India were on top of the world, and South Africa were a team in disarray.
Fast forward five months, and India have now suffered a whitewash Test and ODI loss against New Zealand. South Africa on the other hand, are fresh off a whitewash ODI series win against the mighty Australians.
Indian captain, Virat Kohli is in the middle of a rather uncharacteristic dip in form. He has now gone 22 international innings without a century. Is this the reason for India’s troubles? Are they too reliant on one player? Is this the series where he rediscovers his form?
Bhuvneshwar Kumar finally returns for India. After a long string of unfortunate injuries, Kumar is back in the Indian team. He is a classy competitor and his return could benefit Jasprit Bumrah, who has been suffering in white ball cricket of late. In 2020, of the six ODIs Bumrah has played, he has taken only 1 wicket in 56 overs, at a ludicrous average of 287. How well this pair works for India will be key to their bowling success.
Spin is always a threat to a South African batting line up, and with three spinners in India’s squad (Yuzvendra Chahal, Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav), South Africa would be feeling weary. But with their former captain, Faf du Plessis back in the fold, he adds a great amount of experience and stability to their middle order.
An area South Africa should look to score is in those important middle overs. Far too often, they are too comfortable defending and don’t rotate the strike. This is something where Heinrich Klaasen has been exceptional in doing. The way he takes initiative and looks for the quick singles, keeps the scoreboard ticking, keeps the fielders on their toes, that is what is needed.
Lungi Ngidi has become an incredibly skillful death bowler, and it was evident how much the Proteas missed him in that final ODI against Australia. This is an area where South Africa have struggled and if Ngidi is now a genuine death bowler, this is promising.
While we should remain cautious and not get carried away with South Africa’s series win over Australia, we are hopeful that it is the start of something promising. If for nothing else, we are finally seeing players that we have been calling for finally getting their chance in the side, and they have not disappointed.
Janneman Malan and Kyle Verreynne are two of the best, young cricketers in South Africa and they are absolutely integral to the future success of the Proteas. The way they batted against a full strength Australian bowling attack, showing calmness, composure and skill was exceptional. To see them putting in great winning performances in tough situations was incredibly satisfying. They are finally getting reward for their excellent domestic performances, and that is thanks to the new backroom staff of Graeme Smith, Mark Boucher & Jacques Kallis.
Picking a playing XI for the first ODI will be tough. The experience of Faf is required, his ability to play spin, his calmness at the wicket, his natural leading ability. Without the captaincy weighing him down, he can now fully concentrate on his batting, and hopefully for South Africa’s sake, that equates to runs.
The way Klaasen played against Australia, the maturity at the crease he demonstrated, he is now vital in the middle order. Janneman played exceptionally well against Australia, but playing India in India is a whole different story, with Temba Bavuma back, would South Africa opt to open with him or would they put their trust in Janneman. After all, the only way Janneman can improve his performances against spin is by playing against the best spinners. With the next ODI World Cup in India, this may be the perfect time to get Janneman Malan comfortable against spin. George Linde thoroughly impressed in the final Test against India late last year, he has shown incredible promise and deserves his chance in the ODI side.
Given all these names that should be in the team, someone unfortunately has to sit out. I am grateful that I am not a selector.
This will undoubtedly be an incredibly difficult series. But as South Africa are looking ahead to the next World Cup, they should keep in mind what England ODI captain, Eoin Morgan expressed in the recent SA v ENG ODI series. Their aim was to identify potential players. Results were not the priority, the development of players was. This is what South Africa need to focus on now.
1st ODI – Thursday 12th March, 10am SA time – Dharamsala
2nd ODI – Sunday 15th March, 10am SA time – Lucknow
3rd ODI – Wednesday 18th March, 10am SA time – Kolkata