New-look South Africa face might of India as T20 World Cup preparations begin

Agarkar: Don't think India will be intimidated by South Africa (7:39)

A young South Africa side takes on a strong India unit in the first T20I of the three-match series in Dharamshala on Sunday (7:39)

Big Picture

South Africa's Vision 2019, their grand plan for 50-over World Cup success, went completely awry. World Cup hangovers aren't easy to shake off, but South Africa will now have to quickly shift their focus to the 2020 T20 World Cup in Australia. They are set to trial a new set of players - largely plucked out of the Mzansi Super League and the South Africa A sides - under a new captain in Quinton de Kock.

A few of these players were also part of a spin camp in Bengaluru last month, held to help them come to grips with Indian conditions ahead of the three T20Is and three Tests. And, while some of these players have also been part of the IPL, South Africa's squad lacks T20I experience on the whole. All told, their squad has a collective experience of 210 T20Is while India's potential top three - Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and captain Virat Kohli - have a collective experience of 219 games in the format.

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Hashim Amla, Imran Tahir and JP Duminy have all retired following the meltdown in England and Wales, while Faf du Plessis will tune up for the Test series with an extended spell at Kent. In their absence, the onus is on de Kock and Rassie van der Dussen, who has established himself as a well-travelled and versatile franchise T20 player - to lead the way with the bat.

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Kagiso Rabada, who was troubled by injury in the World Cup, will test out his hamstring, and 25-year-old tearaway Anrich Nortje, who had been sidelined from the entire World Cup with injury, will be awaiting his international debut. South Africa have at least nine matches to figure out their combination ahead of Australia 2020 while India have the bigger cushion of at least 17 games to work with.

The hosts have already begun their build-up, having swept West Indies 3-0 in the Caribbean last month. They are now going to have to adapt to the changing T20 landscape, a departure from their safety-first approach in the previous T20 World Cup in 2016. This series is another chance for the likes of Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey and Rishabh Pant to settle in the middle order.

With India's premier spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal swapped out for this series too, finger-spin-bowling allrounders Washington Sundar and Krunal Pandya and legspinner Rahul Chahar will look to push their cases for a longer stint in the team.

Form guide

India WWWLL (completed matches, most recent first)
South Africa WWTLW

In the spotlight

Around this time last year, 19-year-old Washington Sundar was at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru, recovering from an ankle injury sustained while playing football during training in England. Washington doubted if he could be effective with the white ball on return, but he overcame that and posed a threat to the left-handers in the Caribbean and then was among the wickets in the one-dayers against South Africa A. South Africa could have at least three left-handers among the batsmen - de Kock, David Miller and Andile Phehlukwayo - and Washington will relish bowling to them.

Rassie van der Dussen stood out with his nous and middle-order gears amid South Africa's World Cup rubble, and even had du Plessis earmarking him as a future captain. He has been there and done that in domestic T20 competitions at home, CPL, MSL and Global T20 Canada, and also has a reputation of being a good player of spin. Now, it's over to him to replicate that form in T20Is and take full charge of the middle order as South Africa rebuild for another World Cup.

Team news

Having been rested for the Caribbean tour, allrounder Hardik Pandya is set to slot back into the side. It remains to be seen whether KL Rahul or Shikhar Dhawan partners Rohit Sharma at the top.

India (probable): 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shikhar Dhawan/ KL Rahul, 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 Manish Pandey/Shreyas Iyer, 5 Rishabh Pant (wk), 6 Hardik Pandya, 7 Krunal Pandya, 8 Ravindra Jadeja/Rahul Chahar, 9 Washington Sundar, 10 Deepak Chahar, 11 Navdeep Saini

South Africa's XI following the World Cup shake-up is hard to predict. Temba Bavuma, who has been widely perceived a red-ball player, might make his T20I debut, while allrounders Andile Phehlukwayo and Dwaine Pretorius are likely to fit into the lower-middle order.

South Africa (probable): 1. Quinton de Kock (capt & wk), 2 Reeza Hendricks, 3 Temba Bavuma, 4 Rassie van der Dussen, 5 David Miller, 6 Andile Phehlukwayo, 7 Dwaine Pretorius, 8 Bjorn Fortuin/George Linde, 9 Kagiso Rabada, 10 Junior Dala/Anrich Nortje, 11 Tabraiz Shamsi

Pitch and conditions

The pitch, too, is hard to predict, considering the rain threat. The pitch had to be covered because of afternoon showers on Saturday. Some rain has been forecast for Sunday too. The last time India faced South Africa in Dharamsala - it was the first T20 at this venue, in 2015 - South Africa hunted down 200 as Rohit's hundred went in vain.

Stats and trivia

  • There is a case for South Africa to pick Junior Dala and let him have a crack at Rohit with the new ball. The seamer has dismissed Rohit three times in seven balls in T20s.

  • Since his T20I debut in December 2017, Washington has claimed nine wickets in the Powerplay. Only Sri Lanka's Akila Dananjaya, England's David Willey, and Australia's Billy Stanlake have taken more wickets in the first six overs in T20Is, but they have all had the benefit of playing more games than Washington.