The Proteas will hope to take their winning momentum from the Tests into the One Day International (ODI) series, according to white-ball captain Temba Bavuma.
“Obviously it’s a different format, different skill set, different type of pressure. But I think from a momentum and confidence point of view, that’s well within the team and [we] will be relying on that, leaning on that to help inspire the other new guys and really get us through the challenges and pressures that we will be facing over the next three games,” said Bavuma.
The first two matches of the three-match series, starting on 19 January, will be played in Paarl. The clashes represent a new set of challenges for the two teams as the Boland Park wicket is expected to be slower than the Test match wickets, providing an opportunity for spin bowlers in both camps.
“Obviously, Paarl is a lot different to our highveld wickets where Paarl is a lot more on the slower side,” Bavuma said. “We consider pace bowlers who can exploit that.
“Guys such as Lungi [Ngidi], guys like [Sisanda] Magala and Marco Jansen come into the picture. They can exploit those conditions with the new ball. And then Paarl, as you know, is quite friendly towards the slower bowlers as well as the spinners so again, [Tabraiz] Shamsi, [Keshav] Maharaj, [George] Linde, all come into the picture.”
Meanwhile, India will be hoping that the conditions favour them as they have the option of both a world-class off-spinner as well as a world-class leg-spinner, according to interim white-ball captain KL Rahul.
“We practised a couple days at Boland Park and the pitch does look like it might offer a lot more for the spinners than what we got in the Test series. We know we have quality spinners. [Ravi] Ashwin is coming back into the One Day team and we all know what quality he brings in and [Yuzvendra] Chahal has been doing it for years now and he’s been a great performer for us. If there’s any assistance from the pitch I know these two will really exploit it,” said Rahul.
Rahul at the wheel
Rahul has replaced the still-injured Rohit Sharma as captain for the 50-over series and the upcoming 20-over series against South Africa.
Sharma was announced as Virat Kohli’s successor, but has been unable to play in any of the matches in India’s tour to South Africa due to a hamstring injury. Rahul, who was announced as Sharma’s understudy, will have big shoes to fill as he leads his side in Paarl.
“The last 14 to 15 months I’ve batted at number four, number five. Different positions. That’s what the team needed of me then. Now with Rohit [Sharma] not being here, I will bat at the top of the order,” said Rahul.
The versatile batter, who led India in the second Test match at the Wanderers, will lead India in ODIs for the first time.
“I’ve played under great captains like MS [Dhoni] and Virat so there’s so much I’ve learned from them and hopefully I can use all of that when I captain more games for my country.
“I’m human, I will make mistakes along the way, but I will learn and I will get better. That’s where my mind is at. This One Day series is a fresh start again and a new opportunity and a great opportunity for me to captain my country so I’m really looking forward to it and very excited,” said Rahul.
Proteas spearhead bowler Kagiso Rabada has been released from the ODI squad due to workload management with the outbound Test series against New Zealand, in February, in mind.
The exact line-up of tomorrow’s outfit is still undecided, with the biggest conundrum being whether to go with five bowlers and six batters or five bowlers, one all-rounder and five batters, according to skipper Bavuma.
“As a captain, you always like to have as much resources as you can have from a bowling front. You accept that one bowler isn’t going to hit his straps on the day so to be able to have an adequate replacement for him is a luxury to have… I would like to have as much options as I can, considering the balance and everything of the team,” said Bavuma.
One of those players in consideration for the role is youngster Marco Jansen who made a big impression in South African colours for the first time with both bat and ball in the recently concluded Test series.
“Marco has obviously been drafted into the ODI squad; I think the world has seen what cricketing abilities he has and the X-factor abilities so I think that was really a no-brainer to get him into the white-ball [squad] and to see his skill display there. He’s obviously a guy that comes strongly into contention when we speak about the team,” said Bavuma.
The leading run-scorer in ODI cricket for South Africa in the current squad, Quinton de Kock, makes his return to the unit after having left the Test team to support his wife as she gave birth, and then subsequently retired from the format.
“It’s good to see Quinny again. We obviously miss him, as a Test team. But he has obviously made his decision and that’s a decision that we respect,” Bavuma said.
“Knowing Quinny, and I don’t wanna put words in his mouth, but he will have a point to prove and I’m sure he’s also as excited as we are to see him within the team.”
De Kock will likely reprise his role at the top of the order tomorrow alongside Janneman Malan.
“The last time I played was Sri Lanka where I got injured… But I think in terms of the opening, I’m looking at the guys we have here. There’s obviously Quinton upfront, there’s Janneman Malan. I mean those guys have done fairly well so I don’t see that changing. I obviously come back into the picture at number three,” said Bavuma about the top order.
South Africa has a favourable overall head-to-head record in ODIs against India, having won 46 matches versus the 35 of India in their total of 84 meetings.
However, the last time the two sides met in ODI cricket, during the 2019 Cricket World Cup in Southampton, India defeated South Africa by six wickets.
India have won only 10 of the 34 ODI matches they have played in South Africa, but five of those came in India’s last tour to the country in 2018 when they won the six-match series 5-1.
In the three series prior to 2018, hosted in South Africa, India won only a cumulative two matches out of 13 played. However, the tide has clearly changed with India hoping to put the Test series behind them and continue their recent dominance over South Africa in ODI cricket.
Of current Indian and South African players, De Kock and Kohli dominate the stats between the two teams — they both have the most runs and most catches for their respective teams against the opposition. Kohli has scored 1,287 runs against South Africa and taken 21 catches in 27 matches while De Kock has scored 784 runs and taken 18 catches in 13 matches.
The spin of Chahal has tormented the Proteas more than any of India’s other current bowlers, as the leg-breaker has grasped 20 wickets against the hosts.
Road to 2023
Even though they are only one place apart in the ODI rankings, with India and South Africa at fourth and fifth respectively, the gap between their rating points tells the full story with South Africa (98 points) rated closer to the West Indies (84 points) at number eight, than India (113 points) at number four.
This exemplifies the gap between the top four sides (New Zealand, England, Australia and India) and the rest of the cricketing world, with South Africa leading the chasing pack.
This ODI series provides the perfect opportunity for South Africa to prove, as they did in the Test series, that the country has passed its rebuilding phase and can prove to be serious contenders for the 50-over World Cup in India next year.
“I think that road to 2023 started for me when I came in, my captaincy tenure,” said Bavuma.
“For us [this series] means a lot, as much as there’s no points geared towards qualifying for the World Cup, ‘’ Bavuma said. “Every ODI game is a step in that direction in terms of us really solidifying our game in terms of us really getting that confidence within our game.
“With One Day cricket, we accept that there are margins, there are improvements that we need to make within our own discipline and this series against India will give us a perfect opportunity against a strong outfit to really test ourselves and see where we need to improve and also to see that the personnel we have are the guys we can really go forward with,” said Bavuma. DM