All eyes on Kohli the batter as India, South Africa tussle in ODIs

K. L. Rahul will captain the Indian team in the absence of the injured Rohit Sharma in the three-match ODI series.

India's talisman: Indian fans will hope for a torrent of runs from the bat of Virat Kohli.   -  Sampath Kumar G. P.

Virat Kohli will play his first international game in seven years free from the responsibility of captaincy in all formats when India takes on South Africa in the first of three one-day internationals at Boland Park here.

All eyes will also be on K. L. Rahul, who leads the Indian team in the ODI series in the absence of Rohit Sharma.

Kohli’s supporters and well-wishers of Indian cricket will hope that Kohli puts his differences with the BCCI aside in the interest of the team, and sizzle with the bat. Rahul will be expected to turn to Kohli for advice during the series. Vice-captain Jasprit Bumrah said on the eve of the series that Kohli “will always be a leader” in the team.

With the new leadership and support staff, India will look to win the series with an eye on the 2023 World Cup. The last time a full strength India played an ODI series was at home against England in March, 2021.

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Rahul batted in the middle-order against England but it remains to be seen if he moves back to the top alongside Shikhar Dhawan. Ruturaj Gaikwad, who made the squad following an exceptional domestic season, might have to wait longer for his ODI debut.

Critical series for Dhawan

The three games will be crucial for the seasoned Dhawan, who has already lost his place in the T20 side. The southpaw thrived under pressure in the past and will be looking to solidify his position as the first-choice opener alongside Rohit when the latter returns from injury.

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Kohli will likely bat at his usual No. 3 spot while there will be a toss-up between Suryakumar Yadav and Shreyas Iyer for the No. 4 position. Rishabh Pant is expected to come in at No. 5 while Venkatesh Iyer is likely to make his 50-over debut as an all-rounder at six, having shown promise in the T20s against New Zealand.

The two spinners likely to play are Yuzvendra Chahal and R. Ashwin, who has made a comeback after more than four years. Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar will share the load in the pace department and the management could pick any one of numerous fast bowlers in the squad as the third seamer.

South Africa will be in high spirits after a memorable victory in the Test series. Captain Temba Bavuma played a few crucial innings in the Tests and he will carry that confidence in the ODI series. Quinton de Kock, who retired from Test cricket after the series opener against India, will start his life as a white-ball-only player.

Tall left-arm pacer Marco Jansen, who excelled in his maiden Test series, is expected to trouble the Indian batters with his extra bounce and variations in the short format after earning a maiden call-up.

If Tests were any indication, the ODIs would be an intensely-fought affair.

Squads
  • India: K. L. Rahul (c), Jasprit Bumrah, Shikhar Dhawan, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Shreyas Iyer, Venkatesh Iyer, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ishan Kishan (wk), Yuzvendra Chahal, R. Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Deepak Chahar, Prasidh Krishna, Shardul Thakur, Md. Siraj, Jayant Yadav, Navdeep Saini.
  • South Africa: Temba Bavuma (c), Keshav Maharaj, Quinton de Kock (wk), Zubayr Hamza, Marco Jansen, Janneman Malan, Sisanda Magala, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Lungi Ngidi, Wayne Parnell, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Rassie van der Dussen, Kyle Verreynne.
  • Match starts 2 PM IST.

Schedule
  • 1. 1st ODI: South Africa v India, Paarl - 19-01-22
  • 2. 2nd ODI: South Africa v India, Paarl - 21-01-22
  • 3. 3rd ODI: South Africa v India, Cape Town - 23-01-21.

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