India and South Africa will have one eye on next year’s ICC World Twenty20 when they go head to head in the first of the three-match Twenty20 International (T20I) series in Dharamsala on Friday.
Here are five things to look out for:
Win-loss ratio, recent form
India and South Africa have played eight T20 internationals against each other in the last 10 years out of which India has won 6 and lost 2.
India will be riding high on confidence having won all their T20 matches except the final against Sri Lanka in last year’s World Twenty20 in Bangladesh. Cherry on top - India thrashed the Proteas in the semi-finals. Virat Kholi scored a stroke-filled 72 in 44 balls helping India successfully chase a formidable 172 with 5 balls remaining.
But the home side has played only three T20s since losing in the final to Sri Lanka. Commenting on the gap, Indian captain MS Dhoni said it does not matter much since Indian players get a lot of T20 games in the IPL.
“That’s how the international schedule is,” Dhoni said. “Not many T20 games, mostly it is from World T20 to World T20. That has been the case, but the good thing is we play the IPL and play a lot of T20 matches together.”
India’s last T20 was a three-run loss to England at Birmingham in August 2014. India are currently fourth in the World T20 rankings.
South Africa, currently ranked sixth, are not in great form in T20s. But they have played 10 matches as opposed to India’s three since the World T20 semi-final loss to India.
South Africa’s T20 captain Faf du Plessis was surprised at India’s decision to open their campaign in the cooler confines of the picturesque Dharamsala as he felt that the venue will be more conducive for his pace attack.
“Yeah, I will be honest that I was quite surprised when I heard that we will be playing in Dharamsala first,” Du Plessis told the media at the press conference on Monday.
“Dharamsala has a nice wicket with good pace and bounce. We would be looking to use those conditions with our quick bowlers,” he added.
Dharamsala has hosted just two matches (both ODIs) so far, with India winning one and losing another. In both those games, fast bowlers got most of the wickets. Whether in-form Indian offie R Ashwin will be able to extract spin from the wicket remains to be seen.
“Toss is going to be the major factor here as the ball moves a lot during late hours,” said Suresh Raina.
The left-handed batsman is right about the toss. In the last six T20s, where India won the toss - both away and home - they have not lost even one.
MS Dhoni will most probably choose to field if he wins the toss. He has done so in eight of last 10 T20s when he has won the toss.
Here is India’s full 15 member squad chosen for the T20s:
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.
If Dhoni sticks to his usual three pacers, one specialist spinner and one all-rounder combination, given the pacy nature of the pitch, then uncapped Karnataka seamer Sreenath Aravind may get to make his debut as India have just two more specialist pacers in the squad - Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohit Sharma. Stuart Binny is likely to fill the part-time bowler slot in Dharmasala.
Fourth-ranked India currently lead sixth-ranked South Africa by seven points, which means there will be changes in the table irrespective of how the series pans out.
India have the incentive to rise two places to second if they inflict a whitewash on South Africa.
In this scenario, India will join number-one ranked Sri Lanka on 126 points but will be placed below their Asian neighbours when the ratings are calculated beyond the decimal point.
If the series result is reversed, then South Africa will join the West Indies on 117 points but will be ranked behind the Caribbean side in the fifth spot, while India will slip to eighth.
A 2-1 series win for India will lift the hosts ahead of Australia and just one point behind second-ranked Pakistan, while the same result for South Africa will help them rise to fifth, with India dropping to sixth.
(With inputs from Agencies)