Must-win encounter beckons Dhoni and Co. at Cuttack

In a must win game at Cuttack to keep their hopes alive in the short series, MS Dhoni should look to his team for making amends, especially the bowlers. However, in batting, the Indian team think-tank should be more than pleased with Rohit Sharma, who hit a century as an opener.

To counter the left-handers in the opposition line-up and to provide a consistent spin support for Ashwin, there will be a temptation to include Harbhajan Singh   -  The Hindu

It can be a different ball game at the Barabati Stadium here on Monday when an upbeat South Africa takes on India in the second of the three-match T20 Paytm Friendship Series. This notwithstanding the ease with which Proteas chased down what looked a very competitive target of 200 the other night at Dharamshala. For, this is the kind of format which doesn’t leave any scope for someone to feel to be in a comfort zone.

There is threat of rain to this match, no doubt. And, the conditions are going to be different here and the ground much bigger and without the most important factor — dew. So, effectively, Indian captain M.S. Dhoni should be very keen to see that the response from his team in critical phases of the game is far better than it was in the first game. For, the first game saw India falter badly with the left-arm spinner Axar Patel going for 22 runs in the 16th over when southpaw JP Duminy hit him for three huge sixes. These crucial blows eventually made things far more easier for the visitors to romp home. It is an acknowledged fact that things change dramatically in the space of a couple of overs in a T20 game.

There is no certainty that the young left-arm spinner is going to play despite the words of comfort by his captain in the media interaction after the debacle in the first match.

For, given the explosive left-handers in the South African batting line-up, there can be a temptation to have the second off-spinner, Harbhajan Singh, to complement the in-form Ravichandran Ashwin, who arguably is bowling at his best. It is apparent that Ashwin badly needs someone to support him from the other end to double up the pressure.

In a must win game to keep its hopes alive in the short series, Dhoni should look to his team for making amends, especially the bowlers. It is also a question of concern that the pace trio of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Sreenath Arvind and Mohit Sharma look less menacing when the conditions don’t favour them — for the simple reason they don’t have the pace to rattle the batsmen.

However, in batting, the Indian team think-tank should be more than pleased with Rohit Sharma, who hit a century as an opener. An effort which should see him a completely transformed cricketer given the way his attitude is constantly questioned. And, if Shikhar Dhawan comes good, then the Indians should get the kind of start they look for. There is no dearth of quality batsmen in the Indian line-up to follow them but the key is at least two of them should raise the bar on the given day to put up a competitive score.

On the other hand, the South Africans could not have asked for a better duo at the top of the order than the classy Hashim Amla and the game-changer AB de Villiers. A combination which can make a mockery of the best of the bowling attacks on their day.

With the likes of Farhaan Behardien, JP Duminy, David Miller to follow, the team can afford the liberty of one of them launching an all out offensive from one end. How effective this line-up can be against a far more determined Indian bowling attack here will be the key to its success.

In bowling if the winning combination is not changed, the new ball bowlers Kyle Abbott, easily the best of the fast bowlers at Dharamshala and Kagiso Rabada should be able to handle the job well with the help of an improved display from leggie Imran Tahir, who was roughly treated by Rohit and Virat Kohli in the first game.

The teams (from):

India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt.), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, A. Rayudu, Stuart Binny, R. Ashwin, Axar Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, S. Arvind, Mohit Sharma, Amit Mishra and Harbhajan Singh.

South Africa: Faf du Plessis (capt.), A.B. de Villiers, Quinton de Kock, Hashim Amla, Jean-Paul Duminy, David Miller, Albie Morkel, Farhaan Behardien, Eddie Leie, Imran Tahir, Marchant de Lange, Chris Morris, Kagiso Rabada, Kyle Abbott and Khaya Zondo.

Match starts at 7 p.m.