After a gripping Test series which ended 2-1 in South Africa’s favour, Team India will now take on the Proteas in a 6-match ODI series and hope to build up on the momentum that India generated with a win under extremely circumstances in the Johannesburg Test, highlighting the efforts of each and every key player.
While the Test regulars Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, KL Rahul and Umesh Yadav have all gone back, India will be boosted by the influx of limited-overs specialists like MS Dhoni, Manish Pandey, Shreyas Iyer, Kedar Jadhav and young spin twins Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav in the 1st ODI.
South Africa will also have players like Imran Tahir, JP Duminy, David Miller, Tabraiz Shamsi and Khaya Zondo back in the side for the 1st ODI of the series, but they will be without the services of ace-batsman AB de Villiers for the first three ODIs as he recovers from a minor finger injury.
Ahead of the 1st ODI of the series on Thursday (February 1) at the Kingsmead Stadium in Durban, we take a look at 5 key players who can make a difference in the match:
1. Rohit Sharma
That captain Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri have immense faith in Rohit Sharma’s abilities was ably demonstrated when the ODI vice-captain got the nod ahead of Ajinkya Rahane for the first two games of the recently concluded Test series. That Rohit wasn’t able to deliver the goods and cement a spot in the Test side is a different story.
Nevertheless, Rohit will have another opportunity to prove that he is a key player, in South Africa ODI series – a format he is most comfortable in. The Mumbai Indians-skipper has been a pillar of India’s batting alongside Kohli in the shorter formats for the last three years and his role as an opener will once again be key if India are to take a 1-0 lead in the series on Thursday (February 1).
2. Virat Kohli
Indian captain Virat Kohli is currently the world’s top-ranked ODI batsman and rightly so. Not that we are undermining his Test credentials but it is true that Kohli takes his batting to an almost surreal level when it comes to the 50-over format of the game. Coming in at the crucial No.3 spot, Team India’s captain marvel has the ever-so-handy ability to seize control of the game in any situation and keeps churning out runs for his team over and over again.
With 32 ODI centuries in just over 200 matches, Kohli is already a legend in white-ball cricket and he will be once again a key player to ward off the Proteas if South Africa are to make early inroads into Indian batting in the 1st ODI.
3. Quinton de Kock
Like Rohit Sharma, Quinton de Kock also had a particularly poor outing in the Test series and the baby-faced assassin will be out to make amends in the ODI series. Again, like Rohit, de Kock also opens the batting for his team in the 50-overs format and also has a particular affinity to India’s white-ball attack.
The young wicketkeeper-batsman will be a key player as he had cracked three consecutive ODI hundreds when India last visited South Africa for a one-day series.
With talisman AB de Villiers set to miss the first three ODIs, the onus will be on de Kock to provide early impetus to Proteas’ innings and deal with an Indian bowling attack containing the likes of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah and Kuldeep Yadav.
4. Imran Tahir
If India have the world’s top ranked ODI batsman in their ranks, South Africa have ODI cricket’s leading bowler on their side – Imran Tahir. The veteran leg-spinner is nearly 39 years of age but is showing absolutely no signs of slowing down. Tahir will be key to South Africa’s chances of curtailing and containing a formidable looking Indian batting unit and captain Faf du Plessis will hope that his senior pro can come up with crucial wickets in the middle-overs.
Alongside Kagiso Rabada, Tahir will also have to shoulder the responsibility of leading South Africa’s bowling attack in the ODI series, more so with Dale Steyn missing for the hosts.
5. Bhuvneshwar Kumar
In the recently concluded Test series, Bhuvneshwar Kumar emerged as India’s best bet to take on the mantle of playing like a genuine all-rounder for the team on overseas Test tours. His contributions with both bat and ball were key to India winning the final Test at the Wanderers and regaining some lost pride. The swing king from Uttar Pradesh is also India’s leading bowler in the 50-over format and captain Kohli’s go-to man in any crunch situation.
Bhuvi, as he is fondly called, will be extremely crucial to India’s chances of winning the 1st ODI in Durban with the conditions likely to aid swing bowling, an art-form that has been mastered by him. He is a key player who could take the affairs in his hands when the time comes.