Navdeep Saini will be aiming to impress in his first international outing in the upcoming match against South Africa in Dharamshala. (Image credit: Twitter)
There are 405 days left for the next ICC World T20 which will be played in October-November 2020 in Australia. 405 days is what India have to prepare and build a new crop of talent that will play their opening game also against the Proteas at the New Perth Stadium on October 24. With the agony of their semi-final exit in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 behind them, India's focus will be on the two major ICC events in 2020 and 2021, both of which will be in the Twenty20 format. Every T20I game that will be played in the upcoming series will be closely monitored as to how Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri build the team dynamic.
In the previous Twenty20 series against the West Indies, Navdeep Saini and Khaleel Ahmed had impressed with their pace and attacking bowling. Saini, in particular, was highly impressive and he will be expected to continue the good work in the opening game in Dharamsala.
Ahead of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019, Kohli and Shastri had indulged in the horses for courses approach and it involved plenty of chopping and changing in the side. Will Kohli and Shastri do the same for the World T20? It remains to be seen as to how the new crop of Indian talent is given a chance and how they are utilised in the coming months as India will play most of their games at home.
For South Africa, it is a new beginning with Quinton de Kock taking over the captaincy responsibilities in the Twenty20 format. De Kock has urged the team to show fight even if they do not win. The Proteas had enjoyed a memorable time in 2015, having won the two-match Twenty20 series 2-0 and the ODIs 3-2. However, in recent matches, India have held the wood over South Africa in limited-overs formats and it will take something special to overcome the rut against India, with some key members unavailable.
However, with South African players having good knowledge of Indian conditions due to the IPL, they will be determined to put up a good show.
Barring Kohli, his deputy Rohit Sharma, all-rounder Hardik Pandya and Jasprit Bumrah (rested for this series), at least seven slots in playing XI and four more in the 15-member squad are up for grabs, with some bold steps on cards. The other fascinating aspect will be the future of spin twins Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav. Rajasthan leg-spinner Rahul Chahar is a young talent and is being billed as one for the future. And with all-rounder Krunal Pandya also shaping up well and Ravindra Jadeja's experience set to come in handy, where does it leave the much in demand wrist spin duo, who had replaced Ravichandran Ashwin and Jadeja (for the better part) post 2017 Champions Trophy. Not to forget, India have a back up finger spinner in young Washington Sundar, who in his U-19 days was a hard-hitting top-order batsman.
The real battle begins now with this series against Quinton de Kocks and Kagiso Rabadas, who are also in the midst of a tough transition phase. A good spell from Rabada or a cameo from David Miller could pose challenge for the Indians, while some of the others like Test specialist Temba Bavuma or Anrich Nortje will like to prove their credentials in absence of Faf du Plessis or Hashim Amla.
Pitch and weather conditions
The pitch in Dharamshala is known to assist pace bowlers and with the wicket providing plenty of bounce due to the hard nature of the deck. However, the weather in Dharamshala is not too promising with 60 percent chances of rain on Sunday. In the build-up to the game, weather has played a major part in the preparation.
Stats and Trivia
India have never won a Twenty20 game against South Africa at home, having lost both their games in 2015. However, overall, India have a 8-5 head-to-head record against South Africa.