After losing the three-Test rubber 1-2, India will be eager to bounce back when they face South Africa in the opener of the six-match One-day International (ODI) series here on Thursday.
Despite losing the Test series, the Virat Kohli-led side will take a lot of heart from their performance in the final match in Johannesburg, which they won by 63 runs on a “poor” Wanderers pitch.
Going into the ODIs, the visitors will also be bolstered by the arrival of the limited-overs experts, especially former skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who seems to be able to infuse new confidence into the side with just his presence.
With only 14 months to go for the 2019 ODI World Cup, India will also look to kick off their preparations in earnest during the series.
India have a long limited-overs’ schedule until their next big Test assignment — the five-Test rubber against England in August.
After engaging in six ODIs and three T20Is against the Proteas here, the men-in-blue will head to Sri Lanka for a T20I tri-series before playing three ODIs and as many T20Is in England and Ireland, with the 2018 IPL season in between.
With so much of limited-overs’ cricket to be played in overseas conditions, especially South Africa and England, this will allow the Indian team management to try out the various combinations and fix up certain spots before the quadrennial tournament in England next year.
Speaking of the upcoming series, India will also be keen to better their past record and focus on winning their first-ever bilateral ODI series on South African soil.
India have previously lost 2-5 in 1992-93, 0-4 in 2006-07, 2-3 in 2010-11 and 0-2 in 2013-14. They were also part of two triangular series in 1996-97 and 2001-02, featuring Zimbabwe and Kenya respectively, but the Proteas emerged victors on both occasions.
Going into Thursday’s tie, India is not expected to make any drastic changes with Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan opening the batting and followed by the likes of Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Shreyas Iyer and Dhoni.
It will be interesting to see who among the likes of Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav and Dinesh Karthik gets a look-in lower down the order even as the bowling department looks set to be led by Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah.
With Hardik Pandya providing the additional seaming option, it will all boil down on how the pitch behaves and who amongst the spin trio of Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Axar Patel makes the playing XI.
South Africa, on the other hand will miss the services of veteran AB de Villiers, who was ruled out of the first three matches with a finger injury and is most likely to hand a debut to young Khayalihle Zondo.
Squads: India: Virat Kohli (Captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Dinesh Karthik, Kedar Jadhav, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Axar Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Shardul Thakur.
South Africa: Faf du Plessis (Captain), Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock (wk), Jean Paul Duminy, Imran Tahir, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Lungisani Ngidi, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Khayelihle Zondo.