Unseasonal rain is threatening to be a serious dampener to an unusual match-up of a second-choice Indian combination against South Africa in an One-Day International.
India’s first ODI at the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Ekana Cricket Stadium on Thursday could well be a shortened affair or worse, a non-starter, following intermittent drizzle right all day on Wednesday.
With more rain forecast for Thursday, this modern stadium’s much talked about drainage system faces scrutiny. When the rain stopped on Wednesday evening, the ground staff swung into action, uncovered the pitch to check on any seepage through the covers. Mercifully, the square looked intact.
In March 2020, too, the T20 match involving these teams was cancelled due to the outbreak of Covid.
Desperate for a comeback, a combination of discards in this line-up have plenty to play for. With India scheduled to host the 2023 World Cup, a number of ODI regulars will use every opportunity to catch the selectors’ attention.
The past few months have seen India’s focus on the T20s for obvious reasons. With India’s World Cup squad set to leave for Australia, the attention will solely be on the performers of this ODI series over the next one week.
In January, Shikhar Dhawan and Shreyas Iyer were part of the Indian team that lost to host South Africa 0-3. The two batters - as captain and vice-captain - are looking to avenge that loss.
With the Indian pace bowling resources under scrutiny, players like Avesh Khan, Deepak Chahar, Siraj Mohammad, rookie Mukesh Kumar and the seasoned Shardul Thakur are eyeing their chances in this series.
Similarly, spinners Kuldeep Yadav, Ravi Bishnoi and Shahbaz Ahmed await opportunities to stake their claims in India’s full-strength ODI squad.
Upbeat after punishing India for being on the experimental mode, South Africa has made two changes from its T20 team. Batter Janneman Malan and pacer Andile Phehlukwayo come in for Rilee Rossouw and Tristan Stubbs.
Before heading for the T20 World Cup, South Africa would love some batting time for their top-order. The team has the bowling to be effective on Indian pitches. But skipper Temba Bavuma is looking increasingly desperate to silence his detractors.
An obvious favourite against this depleted National side, South Africa will settle for nothing less than a second successive 3-0 whitewash of India.
However, for that to happen, the cloud of uncertainty over Thursday’s clash needs to clear.
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