A new-look Indian team will aim to set their World Cup preparations in motion as the five-match T20 International series against South Africa begins in Delhi on Thursday.
India were pegged back a day before the first match as stand-in captain KL Rahul and spinner Kuldeep Yadav were ruled of the series due to injuries. As a result, Rishabh Pant was named the new skipper while Hardik Pandya was announced as his deputy.
Rahul was originally appointed captain of the team with all-format skipper Rohit Sharma, pacer Jasprit Bumrah, former captain Virat Kohli among those absent after Indian Premier League 2022 wrapped up, but he has now been sidelined by a groin injury.
The series might be missing plenty of first-choice players from an Indian point of view but it also marks another chance for a few to put themselves in firm reckoning for the marquee event in Australia.
India have won their last 12 T20I matches and will set a new record in men’s T20Is if they win the first match of the series against South Africa.
India in their last 12 T20Is
|won||66 runs||v Afghanistan||Abu Dhabi||3 Nov 2021|
|won||8 wickets||v Scotland||Dubai (DSC)||5 Nov 2021|
|won||9 wickets||v Namibia||Dubai (DSC)||8 Nov 2021|
|won||5 wickets||v New Zealand||Jaipur||17 Nov 2021|
|won||7 wickets||v New Zealand||Ranchi||19 Nov 2021|
|won||73 runs||v New Zealand||Kolkata||21 Nov 2021|
|won||6 wickets||v West Indies||Kolkata||16 Feb 2022|
|won||8 runs||v West Indies||Kolkata||18 Feb 2022|
|won||17 runs||v West Indies||Kolkata||20 Feb 2022|
|won||62 runs||v Sri Lanka||Lucknow||24 Feb 2022|
|won||7 wickets||v Sri Lanka||Dharamsala||26 Feb 2022|
|won||6 wickets||v Sri Lanka||Dharamsala||27 Feb 2022|
Most consecutive men's T20I wins*
|Team||No of consecutive wins||Span|
|Afghanistan||12||Feb 2018-Sep 2019|
|India||12 (Current)||Nov 2021-ongoing|
|Pakistan||9||July 2018-November 2018|
|England||8||May 2010-January 2011|
|Pakistan||8||January 2018-July 2018|
India head into the start of the series with a 16-member squad, since they didn’t name replacements for Rahul and Kuldeep, at least as yet.
In terms of batting, with Rahul out, India could open with Ruturaj Gaikwad and Ishan Kishan – two players who didn’t have particularly impressive IPL 2022 campaigns. Venkatesh Iyer is another option in the squad but he was used as a finished by India earlier and struggled to find rhythm in the IPL recently.
All eyes will also be on Pandya, who led Gujarat Titans to the IPL 2022 title. The all-rounder was in form with both bat and ball in the final and India will be keen to make the most of what he has to offer. In terms of all-rounders, Axar Patel can be expected to play a crucial role too for India.
The middle order also has Pant, Shreyas Iyer and Dinesh Karthik, who is making a comeback to international cricket on the back of a fine IPL campaign. Karthik could continue to be used as a finisher but Pant and Iyer will need to step up after less than brilliant numbers with the bat during the IPL.
The bowling department is where India have some exciting new options. Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Yuzvendra Chahal are the senior pros and a lot will be expected of them but there are promising new talents to look forward to.
Umran Malik was one of the standout features of IPL 2022 and it’ll be interesting to see how coach Dravid decides to utilise the youngster’s express pace. Arshdeep Singh, meanwhile, has established himself as one of the best Indian death overs bowler and along with Harshal Patel, he gives the team a strong option in Bumrah’s absence.
Avesh Khan had a bit of an up-and-down IPL and it remains to be seen if he’ll be given a chance early on while wrist-spinner Ravi Bishnoi could now be required to play a crucial role with Kuldeep ruled out.
India captain, and that too at his home own ground. The circumstances that led to it might not have been ideal but on Thursday, Pant will be leading the senior international side out for the first time.
In a press conference on Wednesday after being named the new captain, Pant, who leads Delhi Capitals in the IPL, said he will make the most of his unexpected chance to lead India. He added that India have set their sights on the T20 World Cup later this year and will soon unleash a new style of cricket.
“I think as a team we have thought about certain goals which we want to achieve,” he said. “In the coming days you will see a lot of changes in the way we play.”
Pant is ready to grind it out in the Delhi heat with searing summer temperatures soaring to 43 degrees celsius this week.
“I think this is the first time we are playing in these kind of conditions after a long time but I think the heat will play its part,” he said. “We might get dehydrated, we might get tired earlier but I think it’s part and parcel of the game. We just have to keep improving, not think about the heat.”
Pant also said he is looking forward to working with India head coach Rahul Dravid again.
“It’s is the best thing to have him around. I have worked with him during the U-19 days, with India and the IPL also. So there is a lot of experience there. Lots of learning from him like how to conduct yourself on and off the field, game tactics,” said the 24-year-old.
Bavuma & Co ready for pace test
South Africa are bracing for a formidable bowling attack from an Indian side eager to prove themselves. India have traditionally relied on their spinners on home turf but up-and-coming pace bowlers Avesh Khan and uncapped Umran Malik have kept up the country’s fast bowling stocks.
“It has definitely changed our preparation,” Bavuma told reporters.
“They have got their quick bowlers and their spinners as well. In terms of preparation, the focus has not just been on spin but also to make sure that we cover our bases from a fast bowling point of view.”
Senior quicks Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami have been rested for the series which could see Malik, whose bowling consistently clocked over 150 kilometres per hour in IPL 2022, make his international debut eventually in the series.
Bavuma said India’s new crop of talent will be a different challenge than their last encounter in South Africa at the start of the year, when the hosts won 2-1 in Tests and 3-0 in One-Day Internationals.
“It’s an exciting series for both India and South Africa. This is a different looking guys – lot of younger, fresher faces within their team,” said Bavuma.
“Guys who have a big point to prove, guys who want to stake a claim for their position within the Indian team. We won’t be expecting anything easy, we are not thinking that everything is going to happen the same way as it happened in South Africa.”
Bavuma admitted the team did not have to labour under such intense heat back home but remain equipped to deal with it.
“Hydration, cramping and fatiguing are big things. You can only get used to it by playing in this type of heat,” he said. “We have to hydrate ourselves and manage our energies as well as we can.”
India: Rishabh Pant (captain, wk), Hardik Pandya (vice-captain), Ruturaj Gaikwad, Ishan Kishan, Deepak Hooda, Shreyas Iyer, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Venkatesh Iyer, Yuzvendra Chahal, Axar Patel, Ravi Bishnoi, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Harshal Patel, Avesh Khan, Arshdeep Singh, Umran Malik.
South Africa: Temba Bavuma (captain), Quinton de Kock (wk), Reeza Hendricks, Marco Jansen, Heinrich Klaasen, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje, Wayne Parnell, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Tristan Stubbs, Rassie van der Dussen.
First T20: June 9, Delhi
Second T20I: June 12, Cuttack
Third T20I: June 14, Visakhapatnam
Fourth T20I: June 17, Rajkot
Fifth T20I: June 19, Bengaluru
With inputs from AFP