IND vs SA: Time to take fresh guard
India look to forget NZ mauling when they take on Proteas in three-match ODI series starting today.
Hardik Pandya's eagerly-awaited international comeback adds a lot of context to India's three-match ODI campaign against South Africa starting today where the hosts would be aiming to put the 'New Zealand nightmare' behind them. Amid the ever-rising danger of Coronavirus and threat of rain once again playing spoilsport, Pandya's all-round flamboyance will keep skipper Virat Kohli in a good headspace as he would be desperately trying to forget the 0-3 mauling in the last series in New Zealand. Pandya last played an ODI against New Zealand in the World Cup semi-final in Manchester and his last international game was a T20I against the Proteas in Bangalore in September last year.
He forced his way back into the national team with his all-round performances at the DY Patil Corporate Cup, where he looked completely fit and ready to go. Skipper Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri has spoken openly about ODIs being least of priority in a T20 World Cup year. But his men can ill-afford to lose another series against an inexperienced South African side which is buoyed after crushing Australia 3-0 in their own den. Especially having lost five international games (two Tests included) on trot, the Indian skipper, enduring one of his rarest of rare bad patches in last six years will be keen to buck the trend.
Kohli managed just 75 runs against the Kiwis, and going by his standards the Indian skipper would be itching to silence his critics, who have raised eyebrows after his statement on ODIs not having context in the current calendar. The presence of Pandya along with a fit-again senior opener Shikhar Dhawan (shoulder dislocation) and seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar (sports hernia surgery) makes India favourite on paper against a South African side that comprises of seasoned campaigners like Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis and David Miller in their ranks.
The three players automatically pick themselves in the playing XI while Manish Pandey might just get a longer run at No. 6 now that Kedar Jadhav has finally been dropped from the squad.
South Africa, on the other hand, are coming into the tour brimming with confidence after whitewashing Australia in the three-ODI series. Faf du Plessis and Rassie van der Dussen, who were rested for the ODIs v Australia, are part of South Africa's touring party.
The year India last played an ODI series v SA at home. The hosts lost 2-3
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