India seek confidence-booster ahead of the ODI series

The beleaguered Indian captain M. S. Dhoni would look to realign his team’s confidence and composition in the final T20 match at Eden Gardens, ahead of the five-match ODI series beginning on October 11.

The Indian team management may be tempted to play Ajinkya Rahane, who hasn't participated in a single match in the T20 series, in place of Ambati Rayudu.   -  K. Bhagya Prakash

Leg-spinner Amit Mishra may get to play his first Twenty20 International since April, 2014.   -  K. Bhagya Prakash

Jolted by successive losses in the first two outings against the visiting South Africans, India seek to dispel the despondence of losing the T20I series by securing a consolation win in the concluding fixture at the Eden Gardens here on Thursday. The match assumes greater importance for the beleaguered Indian captain M.S. Dhoni, who would look to realign his team’s confidence and composition right ahead of the five-match ODI series, beginning on October 11.

The Indian squad sweated it out in the practice session in the afternoon, with both the batsmen and the bowlers looking to whet their skills. The visitors went for a shortened optional practice session that was, obviously, aimed at preserving their energy rather than exerting themselves.

The Indians have all the hard work to do to get back their winning rhythm. “We may have lost the series but we still have a lot to play [for] in the final game. The ODIs are coming up and then the Test matches. Hopefully we will win tomorrow and from there onwards it could be a different story,” Harbhajan Singh summed up the thinking of his team.

Harbhajan, who came to address the pre-match news conference in place of his captain, made a fair assessment of the situation, being the senior statesman in the side with his rich international experience. The series was over for India in the last match in Cuttack, where they crumbled to a humiliating six-wicket defeat as South African bowlers, chiefly Chris Morris and Albie Morkel, demolished the hosts’ famed batting line-up. India, as a result, posted their second lowest T20 total of 92. What added to the hosts’ mortification was the frustration of their supporters who, in disapproval of India's performance, rained missiles in the form of water bottles on the ground to hold up the match twice.

Harbhajan reminded that his team is capable of making a comeback. “We were one down in the Test series in Sri Lanka but ended up winning the series. It was because of the belief that we had in ourselves,” he said.

Though Harbhajan excused himself from making any comment on any possible changes, including his retention in the side, Dhoni may be forced to think in terms of making some alterations in the team composition. The Indian captain may go for the likes of Ajinkya Rahane and Amit Mishra in a bid to spruce up both the batting and bowling departments. This may happen at the cost of Ambati Rayudu and Axar Patel, who have not been able to fully justify their selection in the previous two matches. Rahane and Mishra are backed by form and statistics but it remains to be seen how Dhoni prefers to set up his team for the battle.

The Eden pitch has often proved to assist “slow turn” and that would offer some comfort to the home side which has some quality spinners. Going by the current form of South Africa, who have found a good balance across all departments under their captain Faf du Plessis, the visitors remain strong favourites. Players such as J.P. Duminy, David Miller, AB de Villiers and du Plessis lend a lot of solidity to the side who also have the required temperament to turn things around in their favour.

The teams (from):

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

South Africa: Faf du Plessis (capt), Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers (wk), J. P. Duminy, Farhaan Behardien, David Miller, Chris Morris, Kagiso Rabada, Kyle Abott, Albie Morkel, Imran Tahir, Quninto de Kock, Eddie Leie, Marchant de Lange and Kyaya Zondo.