Highlights

  • Tough test awaits Indian youngsters in South Africa
  • First T20I begins at 7:30 pm IST on Sunday

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India brace for stiff challenge in T20 Series against South Africa amid squad uncertainties | IND vs SA

Under Suryakumar Yadav's leadership, India recently trounced Australia 4-1. However, South Africa could surely prove to be a much tougher challenge at home.

India brace for stiff challenge in T20 Series against South Africa amid squad uncertainties | IND vs SA

A young Indian outfit will be asked tough questions, answers to which might not be readily available when it faces a sturdy South African side in a three-match T20 International starting here on Sunday.

With injured skipper Hardik Pandya out till the start of IPL, lead pacer Jasprit Bumrah taking a break and not much clarity over Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma's T20 future ahead of the World Cup in June, one wouldn't be able to read much into either success or failure of the team in South Africa.

A clearer picture of India's core for the T20 showpiece would only emerge after a month of cash-rich IPL, with form and fitness at that point being the criteria for selection.

If Rohit and Virat are picked in the playing XI, the core will suddenly become very different from the team that is now touring 'Rainbow Nation'.

Suryakumar Yadav led side beat Australia 4-1 on fabulous batting tracks at home but even the most partisan Indian fan would agree that there was so much less at stake in a series that was held within 72 hours of the World Cup.

Australia's core bowling attack was rested and some of the seniors were so tired that they left for home after the third game, having spent almost nine weeks in India.

The South Africa series in that context is the last big international T20 series that India play followed by one against Afghanistan in mid-January.

Even with their pace bowling mainstays, Kagiso Rabada (rested) and Anrich Nortje and Lungi Ngidi injured, the Proteas at home will be more than a handful.

Batting Combination conundrum

India are carrying 17 players for the T20 series and only three of them -- Shreyas Iyer, Mukesh Kumar and Ishan Kishan are also part of the 50-over format.

There will be multiple bone of contention, the openers and No. 3, who will have to shed their archaic safety-first approach that had been India's bane in previous T20 World Cups.

Yashasvi Jaiswal has already shown that he belongs to this level and Shubman Gill is now one of the first picks across formats while Ruturaj Gaikwad after his 52-ball-100 will be that much difficult to ignore.

And herein lies the problem as Ishan Kishan isn't a great option beyond No. 4 if the troika of Jaiswal, Gill and Gaikwad bat. And at No. 4 is India's No. 1 T20 batter and skipper Suryakumar Yadav, who is the only automatic choice as far as the T20 World Cup is concerned.

Then there is the wicketkeeper's slot where Kishan will have a stiff fight from Jitesh Sharma, who is evolving nicely as a finisher at No. 6.

There is a No. 5 slot where Shreyas, who is not exactly a slam-bang from the word "go" but an IPL skipper, is expected to be challenged with short-pitched stuff by the likes of Marco Jansen, Gerald Coetzee and Andile Phehlukwayo.

But if one plays Iyer, then there would be no place for Rinku Singh, another designated finisher, who himself said on BCCI.TV, that he will be batting at No.5.

In case Kishan doesn't find a place in the top four, then Jitesh is the option at No. 6.

For the likes of Ruturaj, Jaiswal, Rinku and Jitesh, the extra bounce on offer at Kingsmead will pose a different sort of challenge as those with superior back-foot play will be paramount.

Bowling picks are easier

The Indian bowling attack was put to the sword by Australia in most games but in South Africa, the length would be doubly important as the younger crop might find it enticing to dig it in due to the extra bounce.

While there won't be Quinton de Kock in the mix anymore, Heinrich Klaasen, David Miller, skipper Aiden Markram, hard-hitting Tristan Stubbs and new batting sensation Matthew Breetzske could make life difficult for Indian bowlers.

While Ravindra Jadeja is the vice-captain in this series and is expected to bat at No.7, Axar Patel, who hasn't been picked for the series, will certainly be around when squad for the marquee event is selected.

The second spinner will certainly be googly specialist Ravi Bishnoi, who is now the world's No. 1 ranked T20 spinner.

Deepak Chahar, Arshdeep Singh and Mukesh Kumar are expected to be the three straight-forward pace bowling choices.


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