Ind vs SA: Hosts seek newer fortunes after T20 debacle

The last time the two teams had locked horns in a 50-over match was in the World Cup Down Under, where India had outplayed the AB de Villiers-led side by 130 runs. India would love to do it again. But South Africa has emerged stronger in the last eight months and looks invincible at present.

MS Dhoni will expect much from R Ashwin as a performer and leader of the spin attack in the favourable Kanpur track   -  K.R.Deepak

Gurkeerat Singh Mann   -  K.Bhagya Prakash

The series against South Africa has turned out to be another tightrope walk for India's limited-overs’ captain M.S. Dhoni. Following the higher-ranked host's 2-0 Twenty20 series loss and subsequent slide in the ICC rankings, Dhoni and his men will be under close scrutiny when India takes on the Proteas in the first of the five one-day internationals starting at the Green Park on Sunday.

Dhoni was under fire after India's humiliating one-day series loss against the lowly-placed Bangladesh and has again invited the wrath of the critics after the team's Twenty20 defeats at home. The Indian skipper's place and the side's pride will be severely tested during the two-week-long duel for supremacy over the 50-over format.

India, ranked second, is separated from the third-placed South Africa by only five points and will have to stretch itself to defend its position. The head-to-head figures, with 26 wins for India and 42 for South Africa and three no results, also favours the tourists. Besides, India have not won a bilateral series against the same opponent in the last five years.

The last time the two teams had locked horns in a 50-over match was in the World Cup Down Under, where India had outplayed the AB de Villiers-led side by 130 runs. India would love to do it again. But South Africa has emerged stronger in the last eight months and looks invincible at present.

The visitors' batting order, flaunting an extraordinary combination of explosive batsmen in AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis, JP Duminy, David Miller and solid players in Hashim Amla, Farhaan Behardien, has the ability to tame the best of bowlers.

Their bowling has been reinforced by the pace duo of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel and is supported by Chris Morris, Kagiso Rabada and Kyle Abbott. Experienced leg-spinner Imran Tahir and the promising Aaron Phangiso provide variety to the attack.

The team, which has already made an impact with its fielding, has adapted well in quick time and will carry the confidence from their Twenty20 victory to the ODIs.

Against such a formidable rival, Dhoni has to resort to 'horses for courses' policy to have depth in batting and options in bowling.

The scope to alter the batting order is limited, though. With Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Dhoni and Suresh Raina holding on to their places, the contest will again be between Ajinkya Rahane and Ambati Rayudu. Indian captain's reluctance to send Rahane down the order practically seals the issue in favour of Rayudu.

The degree of dryness of the Green Park pitch through the hot and humid day will determine whether Dhoni will go in with three spinners on the slow track to check the South African stroke-makers. In such a scenario, off-spinner R. Ashwin, the stand-out performer in recent times, may lead the attack in the company of Amit Mishra and Axar Patel.

Dhoni's choices in pace department are restricted to Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohit Sharma, Stuart Binny and Umesh Yadav, who has joined the squad with rookie all-rounder Gurkeerat Mann. The Indian captain has to crack the winning code in order to be relevant in changing times.

The teams (from):

India: M.S. Dhoni (capt., wk), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Ambati Rayudu, Suresh Raina, Stuart Binny, Gurkeerat Singh Mann, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Axar Patel, Mohit Sharma, Umesh Yadav, R. Ashwin, Amit Mishra.

South Africa: AB de Villiers (capt), Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock (wk), Faf du Plessis, David Miller, Chris Morris, Kagiso Rabada, Khaya Zondo, Kyle Abbott, Farhaan Behardien, JP Duminy, Imran Tahir, Morne Morkel, Aaron Phangiso, Dale Steyn.

Match referee: Chris Broad, Umpires: Aleem Dar and Veenit Kulkarni; Third Umpire: C. Shamsuddin.

Match starts at 9 a.m.