ODIs have taken a backseat in recent years, a trend that is unlikely to change in 2022. Most Test matches provide a purpose from the World Test Championship (WTC) perspective. Similarly, with the World Cup Super League (WCSL) underway, ODIs are usually important too. Unfortunately, the South Africa-India ODIs won’t be a part of the WCSL, which will reduce their significance substantially.
So, what do India and South Africa look to aim at? Bettering their respective ICC ODI Rankings can be one way to look at it. But there’s more at stake.
For a rebuilding South Africa, who stunned the cricket fraternity by beating India 2-1 in the Tests, winning the ODIs will only strengthen their journey to becoming the force they once were.
Nothing less than a dominating win in the ODIs can heal India’s wounds from the Test series defeat. While the team management presents a stoic face, all is unlikely to be well in the Indian setup in the aftermath of the recent Virat Kohli-BCCI fallout. With fans divided in opinions, key players nursing injuries, and the team coping with setbacks in the 2021 World Test Championship final, 2021 T20 World Cup and in the Test series in South Africa, K.L. Rahul knows that there is no better healing than winning.
Paarl is expected to get hotter as the week progresses, with the mercury hitting the mid-40s on the Celsius scale. Otherwise, the conditions are likely to be slow, low and better for batting. The smaller boundaries further help the run column on the scoreboard.
South Africa have rested India’s chief tormentor Kagiso Rabada to manage his workload. However, Marco Jansen is there, and is likely to make an ODI debut on Wednesday. Quinton de Kock returns to action, and with the in-form Janneman Malan around, Aiden Markram is expected to don a middle-order role. A significant boost will be the return of captain Temba Bavuma, who retired hurt during the first ODI in Sri Lanka last September.
In 2017/18, Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal wreaked havoc on South Africa by bagging 33 wickets between them. Spin to win had never been a flavour on South African soil before this. Taking a leaf out of India’s mantra, South Africa have also loaded the squad with three spinners in Tabraiz Shamsi, Keshav Maharaj and George Linde.
South Africa: Quinton de Kock (wk), Janneman Malan, Temba Bavuma (c), Aiden Markram, Rassie van der Dussen, David Miller, Dwaine Pretorius/George Linde/Keshav Maharaj, Andile Phehlukwayo, Marco Jansen/Wayne Parnell, Lungi Ngidi.
29 October 2016 was the last time Kohli played a competitive cricket match without captaining. Mind you, he was still vice-captain, a role that fell upon him after his pyrotechnics in Australia in 2012. For the first time in almost a decade, Kohli will step out in the blues without a leadership role.
Under Rahul, someone he backed and groomed, Kohli will be expected to return as the familiar batting monster. His bat did all the talking in 2017/18, when India won a bilateral series for the first time in South Africa. Kohli, then captain, slammed 558 runs in the series, the most by any player in a bilateral contest.
Rahul is expected to return to the opening slot to fill up for regular captain Rohit Sharma, which means there is a slim chance of Ruturaj Gaikwad debuting at Paarl. However, India may see a debutant in Venkatesh Iyer, who witnessed a rapid rise after his phenomenal success in the second leg of the 2021 IPL. He can be the sixth bowling option India has missed in Hardik Pandya due to his injury.
While there’s no Kuldeep this time, R. Ashwin returns in the ODI setup after four and a half years and will be expected to be the second spinner alongside Chahal.
India: K.L. Rahul (c), Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant (wk), Venkatesh Iyer, Shardul Thakur, R. Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Yuzvendra Chahal.
- Paarl is expected to present good batting conditions, and therefore, it would be wise to choose top-order players like Malan, de Kock, Rahul, Dhawan and Kohli.
- The track is expected to be slow, and teams may opt for two spinners. It will be a wise call to include at least one wrist-spinner. Chahal and Shamsi are expected to start in the respective line-ups.
- Since wicketkeepers give dismissal points, it is advisable to pick both in your side. De Kock and Pant have serious batting reputations as well.
Janneman Malan, K.L. Rahul (c), Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, Venkatesh Iyer, Rishabh Pant, Quinton de Kock, Lungi Ngidi, Jasprit Bumrah (vc), Tabraiz Shamsi.