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Preview Freedom Series: South Africa aim to take advantage of India’s second-string bowling attack

India will seek its maiden T20I triumph over South Africa at home as the Virat Kohli-led hosts are all set to commence their massive 2019-20 season with the first of the three-match T20 International (T20I) series against the new-look Proteas at the picturesque HPCA Stadium in Dharamshala on Sunday. For both these sides, this particular series will also be a build-up for next year’s T20 World Cup in Australia. Our special correspondent Sandipan Banerjee, reports directly from Dharamshala

Last time (in 2015) when these two teams played a T20I series in India, the visitors went on to beat the hosts with a 2-0 margin in a three-match series. However, compared to that South African team, this time the 14-member squad led by Quinton de Kock, has significant lack of international experience.

Following the World Cup debacle, the Proteas are currently in a process of revamping their side. Hence, they have decided to try out quite a few new faces in this particular tour. Most of these young players have been picked on the basis of their performance at the Mzansi Super League (domestic T20 league) and for the South Africa A side which recently featured in a white-ball series in India.

The squad is packed with all-rounders and the Protea management is looking forward to these utility players to do the job against the mighty hosts. Furthermore, according to David Miller, the high-scoring venues (Dharamshala, Mohali and Bengaluru) in which the three matches will be played will provide their batting huge chance.

“A lot of the guys have played for the A side and have recently been over here playing cricket before we arrived,” he commented during the pre-match press conference on Saturday. “A lot of the guys have played in India before even if it’s not necessarily for South Africa but for the A side and other groups that have come here, so they are experienced in playing in these conditions. Looking at the three venues that we’re playing at, I think they are going to be good conditions. We’ve prepped really well and I think the guys are just really eager to go out there and play good cricket.”

In hindsight, the Indians are avoiding any sort of complacency. Skipper Kohli has spoken focusing on the basics and preparing for the job in hand in his pre-match presser.

“For us as a home team we need to be absolutely sure of our game plan. The way we prepare for overseas series where we have to be very very focussed, it’s the same [for home series]. International cricket is about your mindset nowadays.

“Every condition can be home condition if you feel comfortable. I think it’s getting into that frame of mind for us which is very important. That’s why we have been one of the most consistent teams in the last 2-3 years.

“And that’s been the reason because we want to win every game wherever we play whether it’s home, away, any format… we just want to go out there, play our best cricket and win,” Kohli said at the pre-match press conference in Dharamsala on Saturday.

Interestingly, in this series India will field a second-string bowling attack, which doesn’t have the likes of Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal. In their absence the youngsters like Washington Sundar, Deepak Chahar, Rahul Chahar, Khaleel Ahmed, Navdeep Saini are trusted upon to do the job alongside the Pandya brothers and Ravindra Jadeja. Hence, bowling is one aspect in which the management needs to be careful, especially while defending a total.

Meanwhile from the South African camp, Lance Klusener, their interim white-ball batting coach has already highlighted this aspect and he believes the Protea batsmen should try and capitalise this little vulnerable area in the Indian side.

“It’s [In experienced Indian bowling] an area that we will look to take advantage of, you look at opposing teams and areas where you could take advantage,” Klusener told reporters on Saturday.

The South African team is based in Dharamshala for more than week now and has got enough time to acclimatise. On the other hand, their counterparts arrived on Friday evening and their outdoor practice session on Saturday was washed out due to some steady rain in the afternoon. As a result Kohli and co. had to shift to the indoor facilities for a mild net session. Hence, there might be some sort of rustiness in the Indian camp, especially for someone like Hardik Pandya, who was rested for the recent West Indies tour.

All the three matches in this series will be day-night encounters and toss will play a massive role as both skippers would like to chase down totals on these flat batting tracks.

Squads:

India: Virat Kohli (C)Rohit Sharma (VC), Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Rishabh Pant (WK), Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Washington Sundar, Deepak Chahar, Rahul Chahar, Khaleel Ahmed, Navdeep Saini.

South Africa: Quinton de Kock (C & WK), Rassie van der Dussen (VC), Temba Bavuma, Junior Dala, Bjorn Fortuin, Beuran Hendricks, Reeza Hendricks, David Miller, Anrich Nortje, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, George Linde.

Match starts: 7 PM IST

Sandipan Banerjee is a senior cricket journalist with experience stretching across more than a decade. Having founded a number of cricket information resources and prior experience of working in big-ticket events like ICC Cricket World Cup, IPL and ICC Champions’ Trophy; he joined the team at CricketNews.com in 2019 to provide strategic guidance and to assume a brand ambassador role as principal correspondent. Due to Sandipan’s commitment towards the game, it’s safe to assume that if India are involved in a Test, ODI or a T20I, he’ll be there covering the match!

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