India vs South Africa 1st T20I Preview: Opportunity for Bumrah, Harshal to get back to their best as Proteas battle problem of plenty
India are without Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Hardik Pandya, Mohammed Shami and Deepak Hooda in the 3-match series.
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Another close series on the cards
India were recently part of a hard-fought series against Australia and while their 2-1 series victory does not matter too much, what matters is the kind of quality game time they got. The team will be expecting to take away a similar result from the South Africa series, and so will be the visitors.
India are already looking much more settled than they were after their early exit from the Asia Cup, which signifies the importance of these bilateral series right before the showpiece event.
The home team though has had a setback even before a ball is bowled in the series with both Mohammed Shami and Deepak Hooda as good as out of the series. While Shami is still COVID-19 positive, Hooda is yet to recover from his back injury and both are unlikely to be risked in this series.
Shreyas Iyer and Shahbaz Ahmed have been added to the squad as their replacements.
South Africa's problem of plenty
South Africa have almost all of their first choice players available with exception of Rassie van der Dussen who has been ruled out of the T20 World Cup as well. While India are beginning to settle on to a playing XI, South Africa really have a problem of plenty.
At the moment, it appears that only one player each can take the field out of these pairs: Reeza Hendricks or Rilee Rossouw, Heinrich Klaasen or Tristan Stubbs, Marco Jansen or Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada or Anrich Nortje.
All these players possess serious quality and can be match winners on their day. However, South Africa have to make some tough choices. When a player of Rabada's ability is not guaranteed a spot in the playing XI, you can understand how tough the competition is.
SA in catch 22 on Bavuma
The truth is that captain Temba Bavuma, who is coming back from an injury, does not really warrant a place in the XI at the moment, but the team management has shown their faith in him.
Bavuma recently went unsold in the SA20 auctions and that is the best idea you can get about the true value of a player in a particular format in a free market economy.
Chance for Arshdeep to make an impact
India have rested Bhuvneshwar Kumar for this series but both the team management and the bowler himself would have wanted some more game time as Bhuvi has still not nailed down his spot. At the moment, it looks like he will be going to the World Cup.
However, if Arshdeep Singh can produce some extraordinary performances in this series, he will potentially leapfrog the veteran medium pacer. Jasprit Bumrah and Harshal Patel would like to get back to their best as they were taken for plenty against Australia on flat surfaces.
The team can try out R Ashwin in place of Yuzvendra Chahal who seemed to be coming back to his own in the final T20 against Australia. Hardik Pandya has also been rested for the series and an injury to Deepak Hooda means some game time for Rishabh Pant which is necessary for his confidence.
Get ready then for another hard-fought series. Unequivocally, cricket will be the winner once again.
Predicted Playing XIs
India - KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma (c), Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Axar Patel, Harshal Patel, Arshdeep Singh, Jasprit Bumrah, Yuzvendra Chahal/R. Ashwin
South Africa - Quinton de Kock (wk), Temba Bavuma (c), Reeza Hendricks/Rilee Rossouw, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Heinrich Klaasen/Tristan Stubbs, Marco Jansen/Dwaine Pretorius, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada/Anrich Nortje, Lungi Ngidi, Tabraiz Shamsi
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