India vs South Africa: With series done, focus on middle-order shuffle

With Virat Kohli’s Indian cricket team having sealed the ODI series 4-1 with a game to spare, the team management can try out Dinesh Karthik and Manish Pandey in the middle-order at Centurion on Friday.

cricket Updated: Feb 15, 2018 20:46 IST
Khurram Habib
Khurram Habib
Hindustan Times, Centurion
India vs South Africa,Indian cricket team,South African cricket team
Virat Kohli (L) and Ajinkya Rahane are all but set to bat at 3 and 4, respectively. However, India could experiment with the remaining middle order slots in the sixth and final ODI vs South Africa at Centurion on Friday. (AFP)

The Indian cricket team took a day off on Thursday, on the eve of the sixth and final One-day International to be played at the SuperSport Park on Friday as the South African cricket team had a nets session that was curtailed due to rain.

AB de Villiers, who failed to get a big score in the two matches since his return, had a long stint as the Proteas put aside spin-oriented sessions at nets.

Taking the focus off spinners hasn’t entirely paid dividends though it seemed to help play them a bit better than they did in the first three matches, probably due to a clear mind and more confidence.

With India having won the series after going 4-1 up with the Port Elizabeth win, Friday’s day-night game would be a fight for pride for South Africa that could still feature the best XI, including the now-fit all-rounder Chris Morris. The dead rubber though gives India a chance to experiment.

Rotation options

After sealing the series, skipper Virat Kohli had said on Tuesday he could try out a few players.

“We want to win 5-1 for sure, but yeah, there might a scenario for a few more guys to get a chance in the next match. But the ultimate priority is to win and we’ll do anything we can to win,” Kohli had said.

Smarting from the Test series defeat, where he was criticised for his selections, he may want to rub it in and finish off with a thumping series margin.

Of concern would be the middle order that has failed. Thanks to the top three, it hasn’t really hurt India in the series. While the trio has aggregated 889 runs, with four centuries and three fifties, the batsmen from No 4 to 7 collectively have one half-century – by No 4 Ajinkya Rahane.

Karthik, Pandey wait

Dinesh Karthik and Manish Pandey have been warming the bench and one of them could get to play considering that Shreyas Iyer and Kedar Jadhav haven’t clicked.

Although Rohit Sharma said the middle-order failure isn’t a problem as they haven’t got enough chances to bat, India’s failure to close the innings with a flourish is a worry.

Surprisingly, India have kept Karthik on the bench though he was recalled for the limited-overs tour of the West Indies in 2017 after three years specifically to play in the middle order as India struggled to settle on Nos 4, 5, 6 and 7.

On the six occasions Karthik has got to bat since his return (he didn’t bat in one and faced three balls in another game), he has two fifties and two other decent knocks.

While Kohli has said he’d continue with Rahane at No 4 on this tour due to the nature of wickets – tracks haven’t been quick or bouncy – it will be interesting to see if he promotes MS Dhoni up the order.

First Published: Feb 15, 2018 19:22 IST