Limited-overs skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni will be back at the helm as India will look for a winning start against formidable South Africa in the first Twenty20 international on Friday.
The choice of venue for the tour opener has surprised the visitors as the cool weather in the picturesque HPCA Stadium will suit their pace battery. The visitors though had a rude awakening in Delhi when they lost their T20 practice game against India A.
The India A team, which did not have any regular national player, managed to chase down a 190-run target at Palam and that should be encouraging for the hosts. The conditions here though would be very different and more to Proteas’ liking.
Dhoni, who has quit Tests, is back in the side after three months and for him the series will be start of the preparation for next year’s World Twenty20, which will be held in India. Newcomers like Sreenath Aravind are in the side and the charismatic skipper may test their utility, keeping in mind next year’s extravaganza.
Apart from three T20s in this series, India are slated to play four more against Sri Lanka and the Asia Cup too will be played just before the World Twenty20.
In this series though it might turn out to be a battle between the batsmen of the two sides. The visiting line-up is full of hard-hitters such as skipper Faf du Plessis and one of the most ferocious hitters in AB de Villiers. They have the ability to blast any attack in the world.
Then there is the ever-dependable Hashim Amla, dangerous David Miller and Jean-Paul Duminy, who give a lot of solidity to their batting order. Plus, the visiting captain and many a Proteas player is not alien to the conditions nor the rival players thanks to their IPL stints.
Du Plessis has in fact played under Dhoni at Chennai Super Kings and he is well versed with the style and strategies of the captain cool.
Having Michael Hussey in their coaching staff is also a big plus as the former Australian batsman has played a lot against India and in the IPL with Dhoni. His inputs will surely matter help Proteas prepare well for the 72-day long series.
India also will be relying on their batting arsenal.
Having fully recovered from his hand injury, left-handed opener Shikhar Dhawan hit the right notes with a strokeful century against Bangladesh A.
It will be interesting to see who his opening partner would be as Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane will be vying for the spot. The middle order looks set with Test skipper Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina and Dhoni himself.
It will not be a surprise if Dhoni promotes himself up the batting order in this series, considering that he has been looking to bat more freely in recent times.