The South Africa-India T20Is is set to get underway in the holiday spirit – LSB

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The big picture: With India comes money

Summer is loaded in the Southern Hemisphere. December (with a Z because that’s how we like to say it to convey the holiday spirit) is in full swing. The end-of-year parties are underway, and the cricket will kick off with the all-round visit to India, the only men’s international cricket tournament to be held in South Africa this summer.

In many ways, this is as much a statement of the changing cricket landscape as it is of the continuing strength of the game’s main player – India. There is only so much space for so many international cricket matches, so it was a matter of getting the most profitable and popular opposition. The first T20I in Durban has been sold out since the end of last month, other white-ball matches are expected to be well attended as well, and financial support for the entire tour is understood to be around R1 billion (about US$52.7 million); And all of that is before we get to the importance of cricket.

These T20Is are the last competitive matches that South Africa will play before they have to name their T20 World Cup squad, which will play three matches in the West Indies before the tournament. India have these matches and one more series – against Afghanistan in January – before the T20 World Cup. The importance of finding combinations is therefore amplified for both teams, although they will also depend on performance in the T20 leagues, especially SA20 and IPL, where the mainstays play.

For fringe players, this series represents a huge opportunity. South Africa could have two debutants – both bowlers in left-arm fast Nandre Berger, and right-arm medium pacer Otniel Baartman – and could give opening batsman Matthew Bretzke a run in all three matches. India do not have any uncapped players in their touring squad, but four of their squad – Mukesh Kumar, Mohammed Siraj, Rinku Singh and Jitesh Sharma – have played 10 T20Is or less. We often hear that there is no substitute for experience, and some of the players mentioned above will be getting that over the next couple of weeks.

The fixtures roll thick and fast, with a one-day gap between each of the T20Is, and two days before the ODIs begin. By then, South Africa will have entered the belly of the holiday season, with mid-December a good time for many to get back on their feet, grab a cold glass and watch some cricket.

Form guide

South Africa:LLLLW (last five games, most recent first)
India:WWLWW

In the spotlight: Reza Hendricks and Ravi Bishnoi

The biggest beneficiary of Quinton de Kock’s unavailability is Reza Hendricks, who is expected to get a long-awaited spell in both white-ball formats, albeit still without a guaranteed place in the T20 World Cup. Hendricks was South Africa’s fourth-highest T20I run-scorer in 2022, but has played half the number of matches as the second- and third-highest players, and three fewer than their top run-scorer. This year, Hendriks is South Africa’s top scorer. In his last 11 T20I innings, he has made seven half-centuries and should be a definite selection for next year’s T20 World Cup. Some strong performances will confirm his place.

Ravi Bishnoi has enjoyed a dream December so far after being named Player of the Year in India’s recent T20I series against Australia, rising to the top of the ICC T20I bowling rankings. With his unusual progress, he could pose a new challenge to a South African squad that is still struggling against more skillful players, who have not faced him in this form. Bishnoi has played his only ODI so far against South Africa in October last year, taking 1 for 69 in eight overs, but is expected to pose more of a threat in the shorter format.

Team News: New faces for South Africa

Breetzke has been confirmed as Hendricks’ partner at the top of the order, but not as the designated wicket-keeper. This leaves the South Africans to choose between Tristan Stubbs and Heinrich Klaassen. There is an abundance of players available, but only two are likely to play – Donovan Ferreira, Marco Janssen, and Andile Phlukwayo. There could be a debut for Berger, with a couple of spinners to add experience to the young attack.

South Africa (Possible): 1 Risa Hendricks, 2 Matthew Bretzke, 3 Aiden Markham, 4 Tristan Stubbs/Heinrich Klaassen (wk), 5 David Miller, 6 Donovan Ferreira, 7 Marco Janssen/Andile Phlukwayo, 8 Keshav Maharaj, 9 Gerald Coetzee Nandri Berger ,11 Tabrez Al Shamsi

It remains to be seen whether Deepak Chahar, who missed the last T20I final against Australia due to a medical emergency, is available for the series opener in South Africa. At the top, India will have to choose between the returning Shubman Gill and Ruturaj Gaikwad. If India can accommodate just one wicket, it will be a toss-up between Bishnoi and Kuldeep Yadav

India (Possible): 1 Yashavi Jaiswal, 2 Shubman Gill/Ruturaj Gaikwad, 3 Shreyas Iyer, 4 Suryakumar Yadav (capt), 5 Rinku Singh, 6 Jitesh Sharma (wk), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Deepak Chahar, 9 Kuldeep Yadav/Ravi Bishnoi, 10 Muhammad Siraj, 11 Arshdeep Singh/Mukesh Kumar

Pitch and conditions

Veteran player Wilson Ngobese is in his final season in the job after 48 years at Kingsmead, half of which as head coordinator. This would be his last international stadium. While Durban has slowed down in recent years, all three T20I matches it hosted against Australia earlier this year had first-innings scores of 190 or more. But some rain in the morning could make things worse quickly. The rain should pass by the afternoon, but there could be heavy cloud over Durban for the duration of the match.

Stats and trivia

  • India has won two of the last four T20I series against South Africa, with the other two drawn. The last time South Africa beat India in a T20I series was in October 2015, when they won 2-0 in India.
  • Arshdeep Singh is India’s leading T20I bowler this year, with 25 wickets at 23.68. Of the full member nations, he is the second highest wicket taker in 2023.
  • There is very little riding on the draw at Kingsmead. In the 19 T20Is played there, teams batting first have won eight, which is exactly the same number as teams batting second. There was one draw between India and Pakistan in the 2007 T20 World Cup, with two matches lost.

quotes

“In the lead-up to the World Cup, there’s a lot of cricket before that but there’s not a lot of cricket for us as a team together. But as long as the players understand the way we want to try to play as a team, and keep that close to them in the different leagues and tournaments.” Then hopefully by the time we meet at the World Cup next year, they will be used to this brand and the way we want to work as a team.”
Aiden Markram South Africa’s entry into the brave new world of limited-overs cricket is led by the duo

“The guys I watch now in T20s are expressive and don’t have much fear of failure.”
Suryakumar Yadavcaptain of the Indian T20I team, is in awe of the youth in Team India

Firdaus Munda is ESPNcricinfo’s correspondent for South Africa and women’s cricket

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