In their bid to finalize their preparations for the upcoming T20 World Cup, India will begin their final assignment before the mega event as they host South Africa in the first T20I of the three-match series in Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday. Senior pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar and all-rounder Hardik Pandya have been rested for the series as the duo head to the NCA for conditioning.
Left-arm pacers Arshdeep Singh and Shahbaz will take their place in the Indian squad. Meanwhile, veteran pacer Mohammad Shami is still recovering from the COVID-19 and Deepak Hooda has been ruled out of the series with a back injury. Hence, Umesh Yadav has kept his place in the side and Shreyas Iyer has joined the squad as a replacement for Deepak Hooda.
It is the last chance for the Indian team management to finalize their team combination for the T20 World Cup. They will also be keen to test their bench strength. It would be interesting to see Rahul Dravid & Co.’s tactics in the bilateral series against the Proteas. Meanwhile, let’s take a look at India’s predicted playing XI for the first T20I against South Africa.
Openers: Rohit Sharma (C) and KL Rahul
India’s team management has already clarified that skipper Rohit Sharma will open the batting alongside KL Rahul in the T20 World Cup. The duo are set to open the batting against the Proteas as well. While Hitman has been in fine form lately, it is going to be a vital series for KL Rahul. The classy batter will look to add some vital runs under his belt before leaving for Australia.
Middle Order: Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, and Rishabh Pant
Virat Kohli is back in form and it is a massive boost for the Men in Blue. There shouldn’t be many changes in the middle order as Virat Kohli and Suryakumar Yadav will take number three and number four. However, in Hardik Pandya’s absence, Rishabh Pant is likely to be slotted at number five. Much has been said about Rishabh Pant’s utility in T20Is and it could be the last chance for the left-handed southpaw if he wants to get ahead of Dinesh Karthik in the pecking order.
Lower-Middle Order: Dinesh Karthik and Axar Patel
The Indian team management clearly looks at Dinesh Karthik as the wicketkeeper and finisher in this squad. The veteran wicketkeeper is likely to keep his place at number six. Axar Patel filled Ravindra Jadeja’s shoes as the all-rounder won the Man of the Series performance against Australia. While he is not as effective as Jaddu with the bat and in the field, he has more than made up for it with his superior bowling. The left-handed all-rounder is likely to keep his place in the playing XI.
Bowlers: Harshal Patel, Arshdeep Singh, Jasprit Bumrah, and Yuzvendra Chahal
Returning from injury, Harshal Patel is yet to find his old groove back. He is in India’s T20 World Cup squad and the team management will give him vital game time in the series to find his form. His death bowling partner, Jasprit Bumrah, is also certain of a place in the playing XI as the senior pacer is also in need of game time to find his rhythm ahead of the marquee event.
Yuzvendra Chahal didn’t have a successful series against Australia and the leggie would be keen to bounce back against the Proteas. Yuzi’s form is crucial for India going into the World Cup, hence, he is likely to play in the first T20I. Meanwhile, there will be a fight between Deepak Chahar and Arshdeep Singh for the final place in the playing XI. Deepak Chahar is a like-to-like replacement for Bhuvneshwar Kumar as he will lead the bowling attack with the new ball. However, India might opt to solve their death bowling woes by including Arshdeep Singh in the playing XI.