It may be an inconsequential game on paper but Indian bowlers await another tough test against South Africa ahead of the T20 World Cup when the two teams meet in the final game of the three-match series here on Tuesday.
Having sealed their first-ever series against South Africa at home, Indian team management has decided to rest its premier batter Virat Kohli and vice-captain KL Rahul for the final game.
“Yes, both Virat and Rahul have been rested from the final T20I,” said a BCCI official.
After the final game against the Proteas, Kohli and Rahul will link up with the squad in Mumbai from where the team is scheduled to leave for Australia on October 6 for the T20 World Cup.
It is expected that standby batter Shreyas Iyer will replace Kohli for the final game in the playing XI. With Rahul also rested, either Suryakumar Yadav or Rishabh Pant will open alongside Rohit Sharma.
With no second reserve batter in the squad, Shahbaz Ahmed or one among Mohammed Siraj or Umesh Yadav could get a look-in.
Since their early exit from the T20 World Cup 12 months ago, the Indian batting has come a long way and looks formidable ahead of the next edition beginning later this month.
Majority of the batters remain the same from the UAE edition but it is the drastic change in approach which has made the difference.
Heading into the ICC event, India’s high-profile top-three have hit top form including Rahul who allayed concerns about his strike rate with a sublime effort on Sunday.
Kohli has batted a 140 plus strike rate since the Asia Cup that includes three 50s and a much-awaited hundred. Skipper Rohit has come up with impactful innings over the course of the six games at home against Australia and South Africa.
Number four Suryakumar Yadav is in a league of his own and seems to be batting at a much higher level than his teammates, so much so that Rohit is contemplating to play him straight in the team’s World Cup opener against Pakistan on October 23.
Pant is yet to bat in the series and though Dinesh Karthik got seven balls in the second T20, he too would be hoping to get a hit in the middle.
Jasprit Bumrah’s absence has compounded India’s bowling woes, especially in the death overs, but the team needs to find a way if the star pacer doesn’t get fit in time for the ICC event.
Deepak Chahar, who is among World Cup reserves, has been impressive with the new ball but question marks remain over his efficacy towards the back end of the innings.
Arshdeep Singh has made an impact both with new and old ball but was unusually expensive on Sunday. Having bowled as many as three no balls, it was a forgettable night for the left-arm pacer who would be eager to bounce back.
The variations that Harshal Patel relies on to keep the batters in check have not been producing the desired results since his return from injury.
Red ball great R Ashwin is yet to get a wicket in the series and India will be looking to him for wickets in the middle overs.
Drafted into the squad in Bumrah’s absence, Siraj could also get to play at Holkar Stadium but India might continue with the out of rhythm Harshal Patel as he would need more game time post injury.
In the extreme humidity of Guwahati, the South Africa pacers struggled to grip the ball and ended up offering far many full tosses to the Indian batters. They would want to rectify that.
Despite the series loss, there has been plenty of positives for the visitors in the batting department. Continuing his menacing form this year, David Miller smashed an unbeaten hundred while Quinton de Kock got much needed runs before the World Cup.
The biggest concern for the Proteas is the form of their skipper Temba Bavuma, who is yet to score a run in the series.
India: Rohit Sharma (captain), Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant (wk), Dinesh Karthik (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Yuzvendra Chahal, Axar Patel, Arshdeep Singh, Harshal Patel, Deepak Chahar, Umesh Yadav, Shreyas Iyer, Shahbaz Ahmed and Mohammad Siraj.
South Africa: Temba Bavuma (captain), Quinton de Kock, Bjorn Fortuin, Reeza Hendricks, Heinrich Klaasen, Marco Jansen, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje, Wayne Parnell, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada, Rilee Rossouw, Tabraiz Shamsi, Tristan Stubbs.
Match starts 7 pm IST.