IND vs SA 2022-23, Guwahati T20I: Despite Bumrah setback, India aims at rare series win
India will face South Africa in the second Guwahati T20I on Sunday. India leads the three-match series 1-0. While it would not have the services of Jasprit Bumrah, it would still be desperate for a rare series win against the Proteas.
By Tapan Mohanta
It may be unsettled after an unexpected injury to Jasprit Bumrah. Still, the Indian team would aim to continue its winning run and complete a rare home-series win against South Africa when the two sides clash in the second Twent20 International (T20I) at the Barsapara Cricket Stadium in Guwahati on Sunday. From the tranquillity of Thiruvananthapuram, the Team India atmosphere suddenly wears a chaotic look -- much like the traffic of Guwahati, thrown out of gear amid the Durga Puja rush and construction of flyovers. Bumrah was expected to play a critical role in the Indian team's campaign in the Australian conditions, but his "back stress fracture" has ruled him out of the ICC flagship event, starting in three weeks.
The ongoing series was initially planned as the final tune-up for Rahul Dravid's team, but Bumrah's absence from the remaining two T20Is has now thrown more questions than answers. Umesh Yadav and Mohammad Siraj have been added to the squad as injury replacements, but they do not figure in the ICC T20 World Cup-bound squad.
The burning question is, will the two remaining T20Is give the team management scope to test Bumrah's replacement? As stand-by, the seasoned Mohammad Shami in the World Cup squad is not here for the South Africa series. Shami has recovered from COVID-19 and has more chances of making it to Australia because of his experience Down Under.
If that's the case, he might have little game time before India's T20WC warm-up fixture against the reigning champion Australia on October 16. For the SA series, the team has a fit-again Deepak Chahar, who also figures in the World Cup stand-by. Chahar (4-0-24-2) looked in fine mettle when he, along with young left-arm pace gun Arshdeep Singh (4-0-32-3), reduced the Proteas to 9/5 inside the power on the Greenfield International Stadium track, as India took a 1-0 lead.
But, swing will be out of the equation in conditions Down Under. Also, Chahar is more in the mould of seamer Bhuvenshwar Kumar, who is in the T20WC XI and Arshdeep. On the other hand, Siraj has struggled of late and has inspired very little confidence. It's a different debate altogether that Bhuvneshwar, who is short on experience -- three T20Is -- in Australia, has started leaking runs and no longer holds the ace, as was seen in India's Asia Cup elimination last month.
Ditto for T20WC-bound Harshal Patel, as it remains to be seen how the think-tank manages to arrange the jigsaw. In the past, the Indian side had overcome more enormous hurdles, like when in 2020-21, it won a back-to-back series in Australia with its fifth or sixth-choice bowlers.
The Axar effect
Thankfully, it's not the case in the spin department. Axar Patel has been a revelation after Ravindra Jadeja's knee surgery finally cemented his spot. From struggling to find a place, Patel, a like-for-like replacement for the ace Indian all-rounder, has ticked all the boxes. He was the top wicket-taker -- eight wickets at an average of 7.87 -- in India's 2-1 win over the world T20I champions in India's last series here.
And, against South Africa, too, he was at his miserly best -- 1/16 -- bowling in the middle-overs along with all-rounder Ravichandran Ashwin as it's a department that looks sorted. For someone with a career strike rate of 136-plus from 30 T20Is, his batting has inspired confidence in skipper Rohit Sharma: "I would like to see him batting as well."
But, India will head to Australia with their star-studded batting providing immense confidence. The top four, including their star batter Virat Kohli, look in their zone. That KL Rahul also returned among runs with a slow, but steady fifty in the first T20I was a big confidence-booster. It's just that their middle-order with the likes of wicketkeeper-batters Rishabh Pant and Dinesh Karthik seemingly looks short on game time.
Pant, likely to be the X-factor in Australia, has not got any batting opportunities since returning from the Asia Cup, where he had a mixed campaign. On the other hand, Karthik, the designated Indian finisher, has faced nine balls in the last seven games, as pushing them higher would not be an evil ploy.
Elusive series win in sight
From the series' perspective, India will be chasing its first-ever victory over the Proteas in the format on home soil, and a win will seal it. It's a different thing that would hold little significance in the bigger picture. That it has struggled in the world tournaments is not a secret, and the 2007 champion, which last made the semi-final in 2016, would hope to avoid a repeat of the 2021 UAE edition when it failed to make the knockouts.
Boasting the likes of Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje, the South African bowling lacked the sting after the duo dismissed Rohit and Kohli cheaply. Bavuma would hope they put up a much-improved show, and the toss of the coin comes in his favour to test the Indian batting up front.
India: Rohit Sharma (c), KL Rahul (vc & wk), Virat Kohli, 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 (c), Quinton de Kock (wk), Bjorn Fortuin, Reeza Hendricks, Heinrich Klaasen (wk), Marco Jansen, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje, Wayne Parnell, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada, Rilee Rossouw, Tabraiz Shamsi and Tristan Stubbs (wk).
(With inputs from PTI)