It’s the final stage of preparations ahead of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup. For the second time in 2022, the South African men’s team are in India for a T20I series. The Proteas have had a good recent record against India, and they’d offer another challenging test for Rohit Sharma’s men as the three-match series begins in Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday.

India recently edged out Australia 2-1 with the home batters smashing 40 fours and 33 sixes in the T20 series despite bad conditions cutting one match to eight overs a side.

Rohit Sharma’s team have lately won matches while chasing but their bowling has faltered in defending opposition totals.

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On Wednesday, a few hours before the start of the match, India confirmed the final squad for the series.

Deepak Hooda, who is part of the 15-member squad for World Cup, is out of this series due to a back injury. Mohammed Shami, named in the reserves and not having played a T20I since the last World Cup last year, is also out of the series having not yet recovered from Covid-19. If the team were hoping to see what rhythm Shami was in before the World Cup, that is not going to happen.

Hardik Pandya, a vital cog in providing this team balance, is going to be absent so for this series as well, and India will have to rejig a few places, one imagines. Pandya and Bhuvneshwar Kumar have also reported to the NCA for conditioning-related work.

Death bowling is India’s biggest concerns and Arshdeep Singh, who has linked up with the squad in Thiruvananthapuram, will perhaps slot right in with Jasprit Bumrah and this will offer a look at the potential combination that we could see in Australia.

India squad for South Africa T20Is:
 Rohit Sharma (Captain), KL Rahul (vice-captain), Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant (wicket-keeper), Dinesh Karthik (wicket-keeper), R. Ashwin, Yuzvendra Chahal, Axar Patel, Arshdeep Singh, Harshal Patel, Deepak Chahar, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav, Shreyas Iyer, Shahbaz Ahmed.

The hosts’ batting coach Vikram Rathour said India had embraced a more aggressive approach in recent times and will try to do better when batting first.

“There is a visible shift in the way we are batting. The approach has changed. We are being more aggressive,” said former India batter Rathour.

“We are playing with better strike rates and more intent and that is evident since the last World Cup,” he added.

“We are looking to get better at defending targets... I won’t be too harsh on my bowlers because they have been able to push the match till the last over every time when we are looking to defend.”

Shahbaz Ahmed and batter Shreyas Iyer have been drafted into the India squad.

They replace the injured Hooda and pace spearhead Shami.

South Africa will match India on boundaries when this week’s T20 series gets underway, but the Proteas expect a challenge rivalling their last showdown with the hosts, skipper Temba Bavuma said on Tuesday.

The first of three matches will be in on Wednesday, three months after the teams’ last 20-over tour finished in a frustrating 2-2 draw.

It will be the last time both teams play the format before next month’s T20 World Cup in Australia.

“Last time we were here, we were tested, we were challenged in all departments of our game and I think we answered it quite well,” Bavuma told reporters.

“You mentioned the boundary count. That’s always something we can expect here in India, hitting sixes and fours... But I expect a good, strong, competitive series.”

India and South Africa will also play three one-day internationals from October 6 to 11.

With AFP inputs