India, South Africa in T20 team-building mode

After testing out a few names in the Caribbean, an almost unchanged Indian squad takes on South Africa in the three-match series beginning on Sunday.

Quinton de Kock in discussion with Enoch Nkwe, South Africa’s interim Team Director and coach, at a practice session at the HPCA Stadium on Friday.   -  Akhilesh Kumar

With around 13 months to go for the World T20 in Australia, many strong contenders have begun preparing their squads. India is already in the preparatory mode after testing out a few new names in West Indies. An almost unchanged squad takes on South Africa in the three-match series beginning here on Sunday.

At home, India has never experimented with inexperience like the one seen in the present bunch of specialist bowlers. Leggie Rahul Chahar, brother Deepak and Navdeep Saini have played a total of six matches.

Left-arm pacer Khaleel Ahmed, who is yet to firm up his place among the T20 regulars, has figured in 11.

The venues of the first two matches — here and Mohali — should suit the faster bowlers get into the groove before travelling to Bangalore. Though heavy rain late on Thursday night should leave some moisture under the covers, a 7 pm-start considerably brings down the advantage offered by the conditions at this hilly destination.

 

Moreover, the pitches in West Indies encouraged these bowlers more than what is expected from the surfaces used in this series. Given a longer run and backed by performances, at least a couple of these bowlers could be in reckoning when the selectors meet to choose the squad for T20 World Cup.

Like Rahul Chahar, all-rounder spin-options Washington Sundar and Krunal Pandya are the other beneficiaries of the selectors’ rotation policy. What gives the selectors, captain and coach the confidence to try out such a combination is the fact that South Africa, too, is in a rebuilding mode.

Apart from speedster Kagiso Rabada and left-arm chinaman Tabraiz Shamsi, the other specialist bowlers in the squad are those trying to establish themselves in the game’s shortest format.

Left-arm fast-medium Beuran Hendricks (10 matches) and medium pacer Junior Dala (9) are accompanied by left-arm spinner Bjorn Fortuin and fast bowler Andrich Nortje, who are looking to make their T20 international debut. Nortje, regarded as the among the best from the assembly of fast bowlers from South Africa, missed this year’s World Cup owing to a thumb injury.

Options to choose from

But what brings balance to the South African bowling, despite this apparently inexperienced set of specialists, is the presence of bowling all-rounders Dwaine Pretorius and Andile Phehlukwayo, both part of the South Africa’s forgettable World Cup campaign in England.

The duo along with Rabada and Shamsi gives wicketkeeper-captain Quinton de Kock quite a few options.

Meanwhile, the South African squad had a three-hour practice session at the HPCA ground. The Indian arrived in the city in the evening.