The limited overs squads announced to face South Africa by the Indian selectors on Sunday did not spring up too many surprises. The inclusion of talented Punjab all-rounder Gurkeerat Singh in the ODI squad sent a very positive message to all the players grinding it out in the domestic circuit or for India A – Perform and earn your rewards. Gurkeerat was not the only one included because of good performances in the domestic circuit. Left-arm seamer S. Aravind too earned a call-up in the T20I squad after some fine performances for Karnataka and India A.
The exclusion of Mohammad Shami for the both the squads is the only source of worry for the Indians. Shami, who has just begun his rehabilitation, needs more time in order to get match fit. Shami has by far been India’s best pacer in the limited overs circuit since the last couple of years. His mind boggling numbers are enough to depict his contribution to the success of the Indian ODI team. In Shami’s absence, the onus will be on Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav to deliver with the new ball.
Ravindra Jadeja was shown the doors by the selectors as he was ignored for both the squads. Wrist spinner Amit Mishra made a comeback in both the formats. Mishra was rewarded for his outstanding performances in Sri Lanka, where he grabbed 15 wickets in 3 tests. Harbhajan Singh was named only for the T20I squad, thus indicating that he is still in the plans for the T20 World Cup next year. The ODI and T20I squads are more or less the same, with only two differences. Gurkeerat Singh and Umesh Yadav, who are a part of the ODI squad, are replaced by Harbhajan Singh and S. Aravind in the T20I setup.
The only person who can genuinely feel unlucky for missing out from the ODI squad can be Maharashtra batsman Kedar Jadhav. Jadhav, who scored a ton against Zimbabwe in the third ODI, has scored very heavily in the domestic scene.
The squad leaves a lot for the thorough analysis, and below, we conduct the analysis of both the squads that will square up against the visiting South Africans.
In the ODI’s, it will be the reliable pair of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan who will open. The duo complement each other well and have been a revelation for India right at the top. In T20I’s, though, they haven’t set the stage on fire as they have done in ODI’s. Rohit Sharma will be persisted as the opener even in T20I’s. If Dhawan fails in the first couple of games, then Ajinkya Rahane could replace him for the third T20I. From the ODI front, it will be integral that Sharma and Dhawan provide India with a solid start and negate Steyn well.
Like the openers, the middle order is pretty much clear for the ODI’s. Virat Kohli will be countering the Proteas at his desired number 3 position. After speaking about his desire to bat up the order, MS Dhoni is likely to become India’s new number 4 in the ODI’s. Dhoni at 4 will be a massive boon for India, as he can rotate the strike really well and can then finish with a flurry. Rahane will be completely wasted if Dhoni bats at 4, thus it should ideally be Ambati Rayudu who should be India’s number 5. Rayudu, like Dhoni can milk the runs, with ease without much of a fuss. Suresh Raina will take over the number 6 slot, where a clean striker of the ball is needed. Raina’s qualities completely fit the bill for an ideal number 6. In the T20I’s as well, the same order will be followed.
There will be a 3 way battle for the all rounder’s slot in both the formats. One among Stuart Binny, Axar Patel and Gurkeerat Singh will be selected for the number 7 slot in the ODI’s. For the T20I’s the only new candidate will be Harbhajan Singh, who will replace Gurkeerat. MS Dhoni is that sort of captain who likes to slow the pace offered to the batsmen. Dhoni is far more aggressive when that ball is turning and gripping. Judging Dhoni’s choices, it is fair to say that Axar Patel will be preferred at number 7. Patel can keep the flow of the runs down, and considering South Africa’s woes against spin, it will be ideal to have Axar at 7. However, Binny’s improved batting performances in Zimbabwe will make it difficult to leave him out. A rare case could occur when Patel and Binny both feature in the playing XI. That can happen only if Binny plays as a new ball bowler. The likelihood of that happening against South Africa though seems minimal.
Amit Mishra and R. Ashwin feature as the spinners in the squads. In both the forms, it will be R. Ashwin who will be given the nod. Ashwin has been India’s best bowler in recent times and thus, Ashwin’s skirmish against AB De Villiers will dictate the way in which the match turns around.
In the absence of Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav will have to make an impact with the new ball. There is Mohit Sharma to back them up as the third pacer, and he will be used mainly in the death overs where he can mix his variations well. Mohit did a fine job in the 2015 World Cup and one can expect him to be in the playing XI against South Africa. Yadav though, is replaced by Aravind for the T20I’s. In the T20I’s, it is possible that only Bhuvneshwar and Mohit are chosen as the pacers, with Mishra and Ashwin playing in the same game.
As a whole, the two squads represent a perfect mixture of experience and youth. For India to succeed, the experienced individuals such as MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma and R. Ashwin will have to set an example and make an impression. Without the experienced individuals stepping up, it will be difficult for the youngsters to settle in. One can expect a fierce battle between the two highly cherished sides in October.