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India vs South Africa, 1st ODI: Buoyant South Africa take on hopeful India in tensed environment

The keyword ahead of the first ODI between India and South Africa at Dharamsala is ‘Corona’. The widespread COVID-19 has had Indian officials and the BCCI in trouble with reports surfacing that the Indian Premier League could be played behind closed doors without crowd in the stadiums.

Much of IPL’s fate could hinge on how the ODIs against the Proteas pan out. However, as it stands, the first ODI might prove to be a damp affair with the picturesque Dharamsala stadium under covers ahead of the first ODI. 

India and South Africa walk into this series with their fortunes in north and south pole. Post thrashing the Aussies 3-0 in an ODI series, the Proteas have put behind their woes from the past year. They are a revamped side from the team that toured India six months back for Tests and T20Is. Everything from their coaching staff to the director and captain have changed as have some of the members in the squad. As many as six players have debuted post the World Cup for South Africa in ODIs with a potential seventh debut looming in the upcoming series. 

India, on the other hand, have been handed a reality check in ODIs. Their post-World Cup ODI record is a far cry from what it was prior to the tournament. They have lost five and won just six games in this period. This includes the most recent drubbing (0-3) they received in New Zealand in the ODIs. 

The big news for India is that some of their big guns are back. The likes of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Hardik Pandya and Shikhar Dhawan return from injury while Rohit Sharma continues his rehabilitation. Pandya’s return adds depth and options for India while Bhuvneshwar while fight it out with Mohammed Shami and Navdeep Saini for a starting slot. Dhawan will likely open with one of Shubman Gill or Prithvi Shaw with KL Rahul back at no.5 donning keeping duties ahead of Rishabh Pant.

For South Africa, the conundrum is a problem of too many. The return of Faf du Plessis and Rassie van der Dussen means that there is an overdose of options in the middle-order. The likes of Heinrich Klaasen and Kyle Verreynne shone against Australia and displacing them won’t be easy. Temba Bavuma will likely resume, fitness permitting, his partnership with Quinton de Kock at the top which means that one of the two centurions from the series against Australia, Janneman Malan, who was a late addition to the Indian tour, will have to sit out. 

Tabraiz Shamsi is with his newborn baby which means Keshav Maharaj is a certain starter. Jon-Jon Smuts or George Linde might pip Andile Phehlukwayo to the all-rounder spot given that the surfaces in India facilitate turn. Lungi Ngidi and Anrich Nortje will be certain starters in the bowling attack with Beuran Hendricks also in with a chance if the deck is faster as it is expected to be at Dharamsala.

Probable XI

India: Shikhar Dhawan, Prithvi Shaw, Virat Kohli (C), KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah

South Africa: Quinton de Kock (C & wk), Temba Bavuma/Janneman Malan, Rassie van der Dussen, Faf du Plessis, Kyle Verreynne/David Miller, Heinrich Klaasen, Jon-Jon Smuts, Lungi Ngidi, Keshav Maharaj, Anrich Nortje, Beuran Hendricks

Rohit Sankar is a freelance cricket journalist stuck in a love-hate live-in relationship with the game. To rile him up, mention the 1999 World Cup semi-final. Rohit has been writing about cricket for well over 10 years now, and has written for a variety of news and sports outlets over this time.

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