South Africa hope to build on their Twenty20 success in India by winning the one-day series starting Sunday as rival skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni prepared to douse the fire around him.
The Proteas made a solid start to their 10-week Indian tour by winning both the first two T20 internationals before Thursday’s final match at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata was washed out.
With four Tests looming in the last leg of the arduous tour, South Africa will be seeking to continue the momentum in the one-day series which opens at the Green Park in Kanpur.
The tourists will have a new captain for the five internationals, with AB de Villiers taking over from T20 skipper Faf du Plessis. De Villiers will then make way for Hashim Amla in the Tests.
South Africa will be strengthened by the return of pace spearheads Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, who were rested for the T20s to keep them fresh for the sterner tests ahead.
However, Proteas coach Russell Domingo was not looking too far ahead, saying his team will not take victory for granted despite the T20 success.
“India are pretty good in all three formats so we are very pleased with the results so far,” Domingo said of the team that defeated his boys in the World Cup earlier this year.
“But we have only played two days of cricket on the tour and there are 25 days of cricket still left. We have to focus all our energy on Kanpur.”
– ‘World knows what Dhoni can do’ –
India’s Dhoni, meanwhile, needs to bounce back in the one-dayers to silence critics after the T20 loss which followed a stunning 2-1 one-day defeat at the hands of Bangladesh in June.
Under Dhoni, India have won the 50-over World Cup, the World Twenty20 and the Champions Trophy, but his poor batting form of late has been slammed by the unforgiving local media.
“Is finisher Dhoni getting closer to finish line?” screamed a headline in the Times of India recently. “Time seems to be running out for the man once considered indispensable in limited-overs formats,” the paper wrote.
With young Test captain Virat Kohli waiting in the wings, Dhoni may not be guaranteed the leadership role in the World T20 which India hosts next year if the one-day series too is lost.
Team director Ravi Shastri said the endeavour was to get Dhoni back to his best batting form, adding he was confident India will perform better in the upcoming series.
“We know what he can do when he starts striking,” Shastri said of the captain. “The world knows. I don’t have to say anything.
“In one-dayers, we understand our game better. We are a much better side in one-dayers and Tests than in T20s and I expect a very, very good contest.”
The Kanpur match will be played during the day, while the remaining four games in Indore (October 14), Rajkot (Oct 18), Chennai (Oct 22) and Mumbai (Oct 25) will be day-night affairs.
India (from) – Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt), Ravichandran Ashwin, Stuart Binny, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Axar Patel, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, Mohit Sharma, Rohit Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Gurkeerat Singh, Amit Mishra.
South Africa (from) – AB de Villiers (capt), Kyle Abbott, Hashim Amla, Farhaan Behardien, Quinton de Kock, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Aaron Phangiso, Kagiso Rabada, Khaya Zondo, Dale Steyn.