South Africa are on a tour of India to play five T20Is as a part of their preparations for the upcoming T20 World Cup down under. Five different venues will host the five matches, with the first one taking place at Arun Jaitley stadium in Delhi on June 9.
With some of their top players resting, India have an opportunity to try out their backup options ahead of the mega event. KL Rahul will lead the side in Rohit’s absence with Rishabh Pant as his deputy. South Africa, on the other hand, are coming with a full strength squad led by Temba Bavuma.
India would be eyeing a record 13th consecutive victory in the shorter format. They have played three bilateral series since their group stage exit in the previous T20 World Cup. New Zealand were their first victim, hammered by 3-0 in November at home. Earlier this year, India defeated West Indies and Sri Lanka by 3-0.
The Proteas, who narrowly missed out on the semi-finals berth in the T20 WC 2021, haven’t had any T20 action since the tournament. The Proteas had won four out of five matches in the group stage of the World Cup, but crashed out on the basis of net run-rate. In the last 12 months, they’ve played 16 T20 matches, winning 13 and losing only three.
India’s batting unit comprises Rahul, Pant, Ishan Kishan, Shreyas Iyer, and the returning duo of Hardik Pandya and Dinesh Karthik. In the bowling department, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Harshal Patel will have the chance to seal their spot.
For the third pace slot, Avesh Khan, Arshdeep Singh and Umran Malik will be in contention. The spin department is likely to be handled by Yuzvendra Chahal and Axar Patel.
South Africa have a pretty settled unit with only a couple spots to be finalised. Bavuma, Quinton de Kock, Rassie van der Dussen, Aiden Markram and David Miller form a strong batting core. In the pace bowling unit, they will have Kagiso Rabada,
Anrich Nortje and Marco Jansen. Keshav Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi form the spin attack but one of those might have to miss out if they decide to play Dwaine Pretorius.
Blessed with an eye-catching strokeplay, KL Rahul is one of the top T20 openers in world cricket. The 30yr old is often a subject of criticism for having traded flamboyance for consistency. He has scored 1831 runs in international T20s at an average of 41 and strike rate of 142.
The right hander has smashed two hundreds and 16 fifties at this level. Rahul is coming off yet another prolific IPL season, where he amassed 616 runs at 51 average and 135 strike rate.
Harshal Patel has become one of the best and bankable defensive bowlers in T20 cricket. The right arm pacer has clever variations to bamboozle any batter. In the last two IPL editions, he has snared 51 wickets from just 30 matches at an economy of 7.91 and average of 17. Harshal has done well in the limited opportunities he has received in international cricket, picking 11 wickets from eight T20Is.
Quinton de Kock is amongst the best white ball openers in the world. He has scored 1827 runs in T20 internationals at an average of 34 while striking at 135. The left hander has smashed 11 half centuries in T20Is. De Kock is coming off an excellent campaign in the IPL, where he scored 508 runs in 15 matches at 36 average and 149 strike rate, including an all-time great knock of 140*.
Kagiso Rabada hasn’t been quite at his best in recent years but remains a big wicket-taking threat. He has picked 49 wickets from 40 matches in T20 cricket at an economy of 8.57. The Protea speedster had a prolific IPL season, claiming 23 wickets from 13 matches at a strike rate of just 12.5. Rabada can be expensive but has the ability to win matches single-handedly on his day.
H2H: India have an edge with nine wins out of 15 matches compared to six wins by SA. In the last five meetings as well, India lead by 3-2.
Despite missing Rohit and Virat, India have a pretty strong batting unit. The bowling attack also looks very potent even without Jasprit Bumrah. South Africa also have a formidable batting unit with the likes of Miller, Markram and de Kock coming off great form from the IPL. SA bowling attack has what it takes to trouble Indian batters.
Overall, there’s not much to separate the two sides but India do have the home advantage and will head into the game as slight favourites.