Chennai: India will aim to stay alive in the five-match One-Day International (ODI) series when they take on South Africa in the fourth match at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium here on Thursday.
Trailing 1-2, India’s batting has been a cause for concern as they lost the first and third matches. In the second match in Indore, where they won, a defiant skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s unbeaten 92 saved them from the danger of being bowled out inside 200.
Dhoni may also face a test of a good batting combination. The debate has not only been about his batting position but also about his deputy, Virat Kohli’s. In the first two ODIs, Ajinkya Rahane scored two fifties batting at No.3 but he failed at Rajkot, while Kohli, who was struggling, scored a half-century after being promoted to No.5.
It’s a conundrum that Dhoni has to solve as his batting position has also been questioned — primarily due to India’s failure in chasing down gettable totals.
Opening batsman Shikhar Dhawan and seasoned left-hander Suresh Raina have not delivered so far and pressure will increase on them if they don’t pull up their socks in Chennai.
While Dhawan has 73 runs against South Africa in the past five matches, including the two Twenty20 Internationals, Raina, a trusted limited overs batsman, has scored just three runs in the ODI series.
On the bowling front, leg-spinner Amit Mishra’s availability is in doubt following a police case registered in Bengaluru by a Mumbai-based film producer against the Haryana cricketer. His unavailablity will surely unsettle India’s slow bowling plans and could force Dhoni to hand a debut to Gurkeerat Mann. Other slowe bowlers will be Harbhajan Singh and younbg left-armer Axar Patel.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohit Sharma have performed decently and if Dhoni prefers left-arm medium pacer Sreenath Arvind, who replaced Umesh Yadav, will be interesting. Karanataka’s Arvind played in the T20Is.
Meanwhile, South Africa will also ponder options after all-rounder Jean-Paul Duminy was ruled out of the rest of the series with a hand injury. The left-handed batsman’s replacement Dean Elgar’s late arrival might force captain AB de Villiers to bring in right-arm paceman Chris Morris, who also can be a handy lower-order batsman.
However, South Africa are on top of their game, winning the T20I series and the two ODIs so far. AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis are in good form.
At Rajkot, opener Quinton de Kock scored a century to mark his return to form and that should please the visiting camp. David Miller, who was struggling, also showed signs of recovery as he scored 33 after being promoted to open the batting.
Hashim Amla, meanwhile, has not been up to his level, scoring just 59 runs. He has not been able to convert starts and, come Thursday, the right-hander will look out to sort his thinking.
The South African pace attack has not been at its very best on the Indian tracks, but Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Kagiso Rabada have been effective. Leg-spinner Imran Tahir will lead the Proteas’ spin attack.