Sport

South Africa vs. India, ODI series: Five key battles

By Antoinette Muller 5 December 2013

South Africa and India begin their truncated summer with a three-match ODI series on Thursday. The one-day games will come thick and fast and there will be little time to adjust if anything goes drastically wrong. ANTOINETTE MULLER picks five key battles from the series ahead.

It all begins here – a mini version of what would have been a bumper summer kicks off with three one-day internationals between South Africa and India at the Wanderers on Thursday. In the home corner is a side that doesn’t have an identity as a one-day team. A side that has become over-reliant on a select few players and that is yet to define key roles for all of the men involved. In the away corner is a team brimming with confidence, flair and charisma. A team which struts with the swagger of the West Indies of old and whose confidence can easily be mistaken for arrogance.

Although South Africa holds the upper hand in terms of overall games played against India in the ODI format – they’ve won 40 and lost 25 – things are much different now. South Africa are underdogs heading into the one-day series, and with an Indian line-up that’s oozing talent, a 0-3 victory for the visitors probably won’t surprise anyone.

Here are five key battles to look forward to during the one-day series between the two teams.

India’s young bowlers vs. the extra pace and bounce

The prospect of seeing young, exciting Indian bowlers on surfaces which will be much more suited to them is incredibly exciting. The two youngsters, Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, are two different beasts. Shami does generate a fair amount of pace, hitting the mid 140 km/h mark quite regularly, while Kumar is more of a Vernon Philander-type bowler, with a fascinating ability to generate swing no matter what. The trouble when inexperienced players play on such bouncy tracks is that they might surprise themselves by the extra pace and bounce and end up sending the ball wayward a little too often. It will take the pair some time to adjust to the conditions, but once they get the hang of it, it will be fiercely enticing.

South Africa vs. batting second

South Africa can’t bat second. Their struggles when chasing have been well-documented on these pages. With just 16 one-day internationals left to go until the 2015 World Cup, there’s very little time to try to find a magic solution to struggles which seem to be basic. With it being thunderstorm season, South Africa has the added pressure of dealing with its old friend Duckworth-Lewis, should the team be in the position of batting second. As a unit, India is fare superior and even if they have been taken out of their home conditions, they showed during the Champions Trophy in England earlier this year, they aren’t the World Champions for nothing. AB de Villiers admitted that one-day series “don’t get bigger than this” and with an Indian team packed with swagger, it will be the one-day side’s biggest test of the year.

Rohit Sharma vs. the Short Ball

Rohit Sharma is a much improved one-day player this year, but he does still have his issues against the short ball. During the Champions Trophy in England, he fended those off with ease, but those pitches weren’t quite as bouncy as conditions in South Africa might be. It’s a delivery South Africa has tried quite a lot this year, with varying levels of success, and the danger exists that if there is a preconceived idea that there might be some weakness in the Indian camp against it, it might get overused – and even if India proves to play it with ease, it might still get used in an attempt to psych the batsmen out.

South Africa vs. lack of yorkers

The yorker, toe-crunching, room-cramping and deadly, has seemingly lacked in South Africa’s bowling arsenal. When it comes to bowling at the death, they’ve employed the slower ball bouncer far more frequently. It hasn’t always worked. During the recent ODI series against Pakistan, South Africa’s death bowling was woeful; in the first ODI, they conceded 45 runs in the last five overs with a number eight and nine at the crease. In the second match, 54 runs came in the last five and, although four wickets fell in that time, it was once again far too easy for the tail enders to take runs off the bowlers. The third and final ODI was somewhat better, with just 30 runs, but the hard work had been done and it was just number nine and ten at the crease. South Africa’s new ball bowlers are efficient, but they are yet to identify somebody who can be a mainstay towards the latter stages of the game.

South Africa vs. Ravi Jadeja

Considering South Africa’s ineptitude against spin recently, Ravi Jaejda is going to be one of their biggest challenges. Jadeja, although not a massive turner of the ball, does find a way to get something out of all conditions. Batsmen sometimes underestimate him and with the Proteas’ tendency of playing across the line, he is going to cause serious problems. It will be another opportunity for the South African batsmen – barring De Villiers and Amla, of course – to test their techniques against quality spinning opposition in the one-day format. It’s weird dynamic; the Test team seems quite apt at playing spin, yet the one-day side, with a few of the same players, look completely at sea. Jadeja’s prowess will be one of the biggest tussles on the ODI series. DM

Photo: India’s Ravindra Jadeja (3rd L) and his teammates react after a leg before wicket (LBW) decision against Sri Lanka’s Angelo Mathews was overturned during the ICC Champions Trophy semi-final match at Cardiff Wales Stadium in Wales June 20, 2013. REUTERS/Philip Brown

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