India vs South Africa ODIs: Road to India begins in Paarl

India’s blueprint towards identifying the final squad for the 2023 World Cup starts on January 19 against South Africa in the first ODI.

Published: 18th January 2022 10:25 PM  |   Last Updated: 18th January 2022 10:34 PM   |  A+A-

India's Jasprit Bumrah, left, with stand-in captain for the South Africa ODIs KL Rahul

India's Jasprit Bumrah, left, with stand-in captain for the South Africa ODIs KL Rahul (File Photo | AP)

Express News Service

CHENNAI: For India, the road to the 2023 World Cup begins in Paarl. With 19 months to go for the 2023 50-over World Cup, they have a new captain and a coach who will look to put together a side that can be considered favourites to win the title.

While playing at home will see the Indians installed as favourites, while in reality, they know there is still work to be done before they can genuinely be considered as one. Since winning the 2011 title at home, India have gone to two World Cups without a steady and stablised middle-order and they have paid the price for that.

Nearly 30 months after the 2019 World Cup, there hasn't been much change. India are still figuring out who their right resources are. And they start their journey without their anointed captain Rohit Sharma, the man who has been given the charge of changing their fortunes in white-ball cricket.

In his absence, it is down to vice-captain KL Rahul, who will be the stand-in skipper for the series, to begin a period that is going to see India test as many resources as possible before finding the right combination.

As that process is set to begin, it will be interesting to see the make-up of India’s combination. While playing two spinners seems to be the case here and on home conditions, the visitors are handicapped on one aspect. Given that none of the specialist batters at the team's disposal roll their arm over, they may be forced to drop one of their best limited-overs batters.

Venkatesh Iyer set to debut

With Rohit, Rahul and Kohli being certainties, India have to choose between Shikhar Dhawan, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant, Ishan Kishan and Suryakumar Yadav for the three remaining slots. Venkatesh Iyer, by virtue of being a seam-bowling all-rounder, looks set to make his debut on Wednesday and will be key to the team's plans going forward.

With Rohit missing, Rahul made it clear that he would open in this series, but at the same time revealed the team is looking to keep the XI as flexible as possible.

“In the past 12-15 months, I have batted in various positions because that is what the team needed of me then. Now with Rohit not being there, I will bat at the top of the order,” Rahul said.

“We don’t want to be a team that is very predictable. There might be games where I have to bat in the middle-order or the lower order because that’s what the team needs. I might have to open the batting at some time, which I’m okay with, and all of us in the team understand that. In a team game, everyone needs to be flexible as per the team plan or the team strategy. Everyone will have to be ready for certain things that the team wants them to do,” he added.

The flexibility part is not new for head coach Rahul Dravid. In the lead-up to the 2007 World Cup, it became the central theme of their plan which saw the likes of MS Dhoni and Irfan Pathan being used as floaters.

With the likes of Pant and Ishan in the mix, it will be interesting to see how India go about it as having too many anchor players have seen them play one-dimensional cricket. The presence of Iyer is crucial as it would give the team an extra bowling option should one of their regulars have an off-day.

“The sixth bowling option in white-ball cricket nowadays is really important and we are trying to develop that. Venkatesh has come into the side and we will give him that chance. Fast-bowling all-rounders are always an asset and we’re always looking for fast-bowling all-rounders. They balance the team out really well, so very excited about Venkatesh. It’s a great opportunity for him in South Africa and he’s looking really good in the nets,” Rahul said.


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