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Team India All Set for South Africa Challenge!

Given the fastpace of our world today, India’s loss in the ODI World Cup final seems like a long time ago but in reality, it’s not even a month since the ‘tragedy’. In a country where fans celebrate cricket victories like festivals and treat losses like catastrophes, the 4-1 T20 series win over Australia worked as a soothing balm to the burns of the World Cup. Now, India is all set for another T20 series in South Africa, their second-last in the format before the T20 World Cup in June next year. Time is of essence as the team prepares for another challenge in search of an elusive ICC title but with many star players absent, the youngsters have a great opportunity to shine and leave a mark on the international stage!

The Men in Blue have already reached South Africa for the series and interestingly have separate team captains for each format. The T20s team will be led by Suryakumar Yadav as Hardik Pandya is still recovering from his ankle injury sustained during the World Cup. Surya was in sublime form in the series versus Australia and led the team well through difficult phases in many games. K.L.Rahul has been appointed the captain for the ODI series and Rohit Sharma will be back as the captain in the Test matches.

All eyes will be on the young guns of Indian cricket to showcase their prowess and cement their places for the upcoming T20 World Cup. Even in the series against Australia, India selected many fresh faces who delivered in pressure situations. One of them is Rinku Singh, whose IPL exploits have put him in the limelight. He has shown his calibre in the limited matches that he has played so far. His crucial 22 of 14 balls won India the first match of the series while chasing 209. Even in the second match his 31 of just 9 balls helped India set up a mammoth 235 batting first.

Besides Rinku, another player who must have impressed the selectors was Jitesh Sharma. Playing his first game, he hit an impressive knock of 35 in 19-balls in Raipur. Then in the final match of the series he scored a 16-ball 24 helping India post a par score on a challenging pitch. They were ably supported by Yashavi Jaiswal, Ruturaj Gaikwad and Ishan Kishan at the top of the order. Though the trio have been in and out of the side, they have performed well and look certain to be in the World Cup team.

While India was clinical with the bat, their fastbowling resources, in the absence of Bumrah, Shami and Siraj was paltry. This is probably one area where the Indian team needs more boxes ticked. Arshdeep Singh and Prasidh Krishna in particular were often taken to the cleaners by Aussie batsmen and in the third match, where Australia chased down the target of 223, Indian fast bowlers were punished severely. Though Mukesh Kumar with his fine control over line and length did manage to find some success, it may not be enough for him to seal a spot in the playing 11 once the firstchoice pacers are back.

Not all was bleak for Indian bowling in the series as Ravi Bishnoi and Axar Patel showed that spin still has an important role to play in the shortest format. Bishnoi in fact, ended up with 9 wickets and rose to number 1 among bowlers in T20 rankings after the series. Both the spinners picked up wickets at vital moments in the game and kept the economy rate under check as well. With Yuzvenda Chahal hardly appearing to be in the selectors’ scheme of things in the T20s, Bishnoi has almost cemented his spot in the T20 team. As India now looks to topple South Africa in their home conditions, the inexperience of the players on the fast, bouncy pitches is a matter of grave concern.

THE VIEWS EXPRESSED BY THE AUTHOR ARE PERSONAL

Siddhaarth Mahan The writer is a specialist on Sports and Cinema who works as an actor in the Hindi film industry

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