Threat Of Rain And A Wet Out­field Ex­pected To Be In­dia’s Main Bug­bears Against SA In First T20I Clash

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - Times Sport - [email protected] times­ In­dia have lost both their games against South Africa in T20Is played in In­dia — both in the same series — by 7 wick­ets in Dharamsala in 2015 and by 6 wick­ets in Cut­tack. TIED WIN

Dharamshal­a: It’s driz­zling on Satur­day af­ter­noon, a day be­fore In­dia’s T20I opener against South Africa. The HPCA Sta­dium ground is a sea of blue tarp. The hy­dro-sop­pers work fu­ri­ously but it rains just enough to in­ter­rupt the start of In­dia’s first train­ing ses­sion ahead of a new home series. Frus­trated, some play­ers head to the in­door nets to get a knock be­hind closed doors.

Just an hour ear­lier, the South Africans had en­joyed a full ses­sion, and an hour later, the sun is out. Coach Ravi Shas­tri, who has waited pa­tiently for the cov­ers to be re­moved, de­cides to take an in­tense first look at the pitch. He is joined by Ro­hit Sharma, who shadow-bats for a few sec­onds then nods at Shas­tri, as if to sug­gest he is sat­is­fied. The rest of the prepa­ra­tion will have to come out in the mid­dle on Sun­day evening.

The threat of rain, a wet out­field and evening dew are ex­pected to be In­dia’s main bug­bears against a new-look South African side, led by a new skip­per in Quin­ton De Kock.

“We have been here for a week. We’re here to stamp our author­ity,” David Miller said, not en­tirely with­out con­vic­tion. It’s a far cry from the starstud­ded side which chased down 200 in a T20I at this venue in 2015 but as Vi­rat Kohli sug­gested, South Africa can be sur­pris­ingly resilient op­po­nents.

For the next few games, Kohli will be busy check­ing out some new di­als on the team’s T20 ma­chin­ery. Prepa­ra­tions for next year’s T20 World Cup in Aus­tralia have be­gun with the shed­ding of long-es­tab­lished no­tions: out go the legspin twins, in come the bowl­ing all­rounders.

Kohli was forth­com­ing on the de­ci­sion to rest Kuldeep Ya­dav and Yuzven­dra Cha­hal, say­ing In­dia want some more bat­ting meat in the tail. “If all teams are bat­ting at No. 9, 10 why can’t we? You need to take those calls at one stage.”

What this means is a shift back to a com­bi­na­tion of fin­ger and wrist spin. The trial run has al­ready taken place in the West Indies but these aren’t the only changes. Navdeep Saini, Deepak Cha­har and Khaleel Ahmed are the new pace face of this team in the ab­sence of Bum­rah and Bhu­vnesh­war. Shreyas Iyer gets a look-in to beef up the mid­dle or­der. Add a formidable top or­der, the mav­er­ick Pant-Hardik Pandya touch and a wag­ging tail, and the per­fect T20 recipe may emerge.

South Africa are plan­ning some­thing sim­i­lar with bowl­ing all­rounders, as as­sis­tant bat­ting coach Lance Klusener said. “A few years back it was all about spin­ning all­rounders, so it’s great to see some seam-bowl­ing all­rounders. We have young all­rounders who can be in the top five in the next year.”

The likes of Dwayne Pre­to­rius and Andile Phehluk­wayo have enough po­ten­tial to ex­cite Klusener, and Kohli is hop­ing for a sim­i­lar spark from some of the new faces. “As far as a roadmap is con­cerned, when­ever there is a world tour­na­ment com­ing up, it’s like a mile­stone (around which plans are set) and you start pre­par­ing from back­wards. Every team will go through the same process.”

Kohli has as­signed three key player at­tributes he will watch out for: abil­ity, char­ac­ter and com­po­sure. “It’s ex­cit­ing for a cap­tain to try out dif­fer­ent com­bi­na­tions and new play­ers. It’s ex­cit­ing when these new faces ex­press them­selves.”

The clock has be­gun tick­ing on crack­ing the T20 code. It’s time to try out the pass­words.

LET IT ROLL: South African skip­per Quin­ton de Kock trains in Dharamshal­a on Satur­day

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