Dharamsala ODI: India looks to snap losing streak, rain threat looms

Looking to break the five-match losing streak — all three ODIs and both Tests — to New Zealand, India could well turn to its time-tested “spin-to-win” mantra. But that alone is not going to do the trick.

Indian players during a training session in Dharamsala on Wednesday.   -  R.V. Moorthy

Following a harsh reality-check in New Zealand, Virat Kohli and his men are back in familiar environment. Backed by vociferous crowds, favourable conditions and pitches, the recently-battered team will look to redeem itself against an in-form South Africa in the three-match ODI series beginning here on Thursday.

Looking to break the five-match losing streak — all three ODIs and both Tests — to New Zealand, India could well turn to its time-tested “spin-to-win” mantra. But that alone is not going to do the trick.

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The batsmen need to fire to restore confidence in the dressing room. Indeed, three ODIs in a week will test India’s top-order in the continued absence of an injured Rohit Sharma.

The Law of Averages seem to have finally caught up with Kohli. Returning from injury, Shikhar Dhawan is expected to take time to get back to the groove.

An impetuous and inexperienced Prithvi Shaw is still a 'work-in-progress'.

The rays of hope come from K. L. Rahul, Shreyas Iyer and Manish Pandey, who look increasingly hungry to cement their spots in the playing XI.

  • India and South Africa face-off for the first time at Dharamsala in an ODI.
  • India comes into this series after losing 0-3 to host New Zealand. In contrast, playing at home, South Africa blanked Australia 3-0.
  • In October 2015, when South Africa last played an ODI series in India, it won 3-2.
  • From that series, six players - three each from India and South Africa - have retained their places. They are Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Faf du Plesis, Quinton de Kock and David Miller.
  • After the 2019 World Cup, India maintains a clean record in ODIs at home, having beaten West Indies and Australia 2-1. In the same period, South Africa hosted England, drew 1-1 and beat Australia 3-0.

Among these, Rahul now finds himself saddled with the job of keeping the wickets, something that his name-sake and fellow Karnataka cricketer Rahul Dravid once did so reluctantly.

With the team management going back to the idea of a specialist batsman-turned-makeshift keeper in search of the “right balance” or add to the options of playing an additional batsman or a bowler, one cannot help sparing a thought for young Rishabh Pant.

Reduced to a bench-warmer during the three ODIs in New Zealand recently, Pant is going through a crisis of form, and with it, confidence. His understandable lack of self-belief has reflected in his job behind the stumps in the two Tests that followed.

With Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri keen to wipe out the recent unpleasant memories, Pant could still find himself out of favour, probably like Shubman Gill. If the think-tank continues to opt for Rahul as the first-choice keeper, Pant should read the writing on the wall.

Like Pant, Jasprit Bumrah is learning how it feels to become a victim of expectations. Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Hardik Pandya are back from injuries. The spin-duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal are looking to strike in tandem. Navdeep Saini is aiming to resume his run on the home-turf.

In short, this team does not look like an obvious favourite against South Africa, currently riding a high. Not many realise that South Africa is here after maintaining its domination over Australia by winning 11 out of the last 12 ODIs.

The side, that recently whipped Australia 3-0 at home, stands reinforced with the return of former skipper Faf du Plessis.

Under Quinton de Kock, South Africa is looking to repeat its series-success of 2015 when it last visited India for ODIs and won 3-2.

The team looks to Faf du Plessis, Quinton de Kock and David Miller for experience in batting. Some exciting talents, bearing unusual names like Jaaneman Malan and Jon-Jon Smuts, will be keen to reinforce the impressions they made against Australia.

Fit-again Temba Bavuma, Rassie van der Dussen, Heinrich Klassen and others who can be expected to come good. In the absence of an injured Kagiso Rabada, the pace attack consists of Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje, Beuran Hendricks and recent debutant Lutho Sipamla, not to forget seam-bowling all-rounder Andile Phehlukwayo. Test spinner Keshav Maharaj and Smuts provide the slower options. Interestingly, it will be a first for these bowlers to play an ODI in India.

Last September, when the two teams reached this picturesque destination for the opener of the three-match T20 series, heavy rain ensured no play.

On Thursday, too, there is forecast for rain. Having learnt from experience, the groundsmen covered every inch of the ground before it started raining around 3 pm.

  • India: Virat Kohli (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Prithvi Shaw, K. L.Rahul, Manish Pandey, Shreyas Iyer, Shubman Gill, Hardik Pandya, Rishabh Pant, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Navdeep Saini and Kuldeep Yadav.
  • South Africa: Quinton de Kock (captain), Jaaneman Malan, Faf du Plessis, Temba Bavuma, Rassie van der Dussen, Jon-Jon Smuts, Kyle Verreynne, Heinrich Klassen, David Miller, George Linde, Andile Phehlukwayo, Keshav Maharaj, Anrich Nortje, Lutho Sipamla, Beuran Hendricks and Lungi Ngidi.

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