India, aided by the return of Mahendra Singh Dhoni as the limited overs skipper, will aim for a winning start against South Africa in the first Twenty20 International (T20I) of their three-match series in Dharamsala on Friday.
Dhoni, at the pre-match press conference, said that the search is still on for a potent cricketer, who can fit into the role of a seam bowling all-rounder that will help getting the team combination right.
Dhoni spoke in the context of team’s bowling combination which hinges on whether they have a quality seamer all-rounder.
“We have four spinners (Ravi Ashwin, Harbhajan Singh, Amit Mishra and Axar Patel) and three proper seamers (Mohit Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Sreenath Aravind) and a seamer all-rounder (Stuart Binny),” Dhoni said.
“So it gives you that luxury of going with the right combination, depending on the scenario. Also you have to see strength of the team. Like if we go with two spinners, one of them has to be a better batsman.
“We don’t have a seamer all-rounder, who can give us 4 overs in a T20 game or for that matter 10 overs in a 50-over game and also bat as well. So we have to keep all these factors (in mind),” said the T20 and ODI captain.
Dhoni also kept cards close to his chest as to whether he would bat up the order or not, saying it will depend on what the situation warrants.
“I would love to. We have to see the composition of the side, who is best suited to bat at what position. Especially in T20s, most of our players are top-order batsmen but when it comes to IPL or T20 internationals, they bat at different positions.
“For example, Rohit opens over here and Ajinkya Rahane who bats in the middle order, opens in IPL. So we have to see, depending on that I will decide. Most of our batsmen like to bat up the order, somebody has to bat middle and late order,” he said.
Asked if Suresh Raina could take over the mantle of an ideal finisher, a job that he has performed remarkably in the earlier years, Dhoni replied in negative.
“Raina is not a finisher. We play more T20s and have more statistics from IPL than T20 Internationals. He is somebody who has batted at No. 3 in most of the matches. We promoted him in 2009 and he did well. So we have to place them strategically, so that it helps the team.”
South Africa begin their 72-day long tour of India at the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium (HPCA) on the back of a T20 loss against India A in their only warm-up match.
However, they will aim to put that poor performance behind them and look for a positive start to the hectic tour.
The three-match T20 series is mostly seen as a preparation for the upcoming World Cup T20 in 2016 scheduled to be played in India.
Dhoni will be back into the side after a gap of three months and will aim to make the most of the preparations ahead of the next year’s tournament. Youngsters Axar Patel, Sreenath Aravind and Ambati Rayudu will be tested.
With India’s batting line-up comprising Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Ajinkya Rahane being the strength, the Proteas’ bowlers need to be disciplined to dismantle them in conditions favouring the batsmen.
South Africa’s batsmen like skipper Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Quinton de Kock, David Miller will aim to use their Indian Premier League (IPL) experience as much as possible in the three T20 matches.
Leg-spinner Imran Tahir will come into play on the turning tracks and can turn out to be the visiting team’s best bet at taking wickets.
India, on the other hand, have a strong bowling line-up, with spin trio of Harbhajan Singh, Amit Mishra, Ravichandran Ashwin leading the lines, assisted by pacers Mohit Sharma and Sreenath Aravind.
With both teams looking strong on paper, one cracker of a contest can be expected.
India: MS Dhoni (captain and wk), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravichandran Ashwin, Stuart Binny, Akshar Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ambati Rayudu, Mohit Sharma, Harbhajan Singh, Amit Mishra and Sreenath Aravind.
South Africa: Faf du Plessis (captain), Kyle Abbott, Hashim Amla, Farhaan Behardien, Quinton de Kock (wk), Marchant de Lange, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Imran Tahir, Eddie Leie, David Miller, Chris Morris, Kagiso Rabada, Albie Morkel and Khaya Zondo.