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After an engaging battle in the Test and ODI series over the last month and a half, India and South Africa will now face each other in the three-match T20 International series and conclude the proceedings of the Freedom Series. Both teams will go into the series with fresh ideas and personnel in their armory, and we look at the key 5 players, who will have all eyes on them in the South Africa v India T20 series.
South Africa, in particular have a much changed lineup for the T20I leg and will be led by veteran all-rounder JP Duminy. India have also handed a well-deserved recall to Uttar Pradesh captain Suresh Raina and will also have opener KL Rahul back for the final stretch.
Key 5 players for the South Africa v India T20 series:
Note: Considering the kind of form that Virat Kohli is in, there is no point in stating the obvious and putting him on this list. Five other players who can be key and make an impact in the T20I series have been listed below.
1. AB de Villiers
After missing first three games of the ODI series, much was expected of the South African superman to come in and lead his side’s comeback against a spirited Indian side. To everyone’s surprise and disappointment, De Villiers failed to stand up and deliver in either of his three outings and was clearly below his best. Come the T20 International series and the Proteas will once again have their hopes pinned on AB de Villiers to lead from the front deliver a series win this time around, more so in the absence of other key batsmen like Faf du Plessis, Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock.
2. Suresh Raina
After finally clearing the mandatory ‘Yo-Yo’ Test recently, Suresh Raina is back in the Indian setup for the T20 International series and will be looking to prove his doubters wrong. As demonstrated in the ODI series, the Indian team lacked a reliable finisher in the death overs and often ended up short while batting first. That this shortcoming was beautifully covered up by their bowlers is another matter. Raina has been in outstanding form in the domestic circuit for Uttar Pradesh this season and can be a key player for India in the shortest format of the game.
3. Yuzvendra Chahal
The wily leg-spinner was at his imperious best in the recently concluded ODI series and was a key contributor in India’s 5-1 win. While his spin partner Kuldeep Yadav is still an untested entity in the T20 format, Chahal has been captain Kohli’s go-to man in the middle-overs for both India and Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL. The Indian team management will hope that the 27-year-old wrist spinners can repeat his 50-over heroics in the T20 International series and contribute towards maintaining India’s domination over the Proteas in the limited-overs leg of this tour.
4. Jon Jon Smuts
JJ Smuts, a right-handed opening batsman and a slow left-arm bowler will be crucial to South Africa’s chances in the T20 International series as the hosts will be without a host of established players like Hashim Amla, captain Faf du Plessis, Quinton de Kock, Morne Morkel and Kagiso Rabada – who have all been rested ahead of the important Test series against Australia. Smuts is a hard-hitting opening batsman and is an established performer for Warriors in South Africa’s domestic circuit. Much will depend on the kind of starts that JJ Smuts can provide for the Proteas against India’s new ball attack of Bhuvneshwar and Bumrah.
5. Manish Pandey
A wildcard entry to complete the list – Manish Pandey has the undeniable ability to win a game for his team from any point or situation. The Karnataka batsman was a passenger throughout the ODI series, with both Ajinkya Rahane and Shreyas Iyer being preferred to Pandey. Nonetheless, the former KKR smasher is likely to get a chance to showcase his worth in the T20 International series and will be itching to to get a good run out in the upcoming three games. Pandey will certainly be a man to watch out for in the T20 International series.
After a disappointing 2-1 loss in the Test series, India bounced back superbly in the ODIs and dismantled the South Africans 5-1 to complete their first ever limited-overs series win in the Rainbow nation. After emerging as the leading run-scorer in Tests, Indian skipper Virat Kohli was in sublime form in the ODI series and scored three match-winning centuries for his team, also winning the ‘Player of the Series’ award in the process.