Time has flown by and it’s hard to believe the 2019 ICC World Cup is only 15 months away.
For India, the second-ranked ODI side in the world behind South Africa (by only just one point in the ICC rankings), this six-match 50-over series against the Proteas, starting on Thursday at Kingsmead, is a crucial building block to the tournament which takes place in England next year.
The tourists have a real chance of usurping their opponents in the standings come the end of the clashes and continuing the momentum from their 63-run Test win at the Wanderers Stadium – a result which salvaged plenty of pride despite the 2-1 series loss.
The Men in Blue have shown signs they have gradually adapted to testing seaming, pacey and bouncing South African wickets. The conditions in the one-dayers will also be similar to what they will face at the World Cup next year, and if you also factor in the one-day matches India will play when they tour England later this summer, then their preparation is as good as it gets.
It should help the country’s selectors get an early feel of how they see the ODI looking next year, who has thrived in conditions away from India and what work still needs to be done. That said, it is worth reminding though that India did reach the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy final, held in England – proof that there is plenty to work with.
Despite winning their past eight ODI series, India have never won a bilateral 50-over series in South Africa and will be keen to extract revenge from a 3-2 one-day lost to South Africa on home soil back in the 2015-16 season.
But, with a firing Virat Kohli in their ranks, anything is possible. The skipper has been in irresistible form in the format for a long while now and is the best in the world.
If he fires, as he did throughout 2017 when he notched 1,460 runs at an average of 76.84 from 26 ODI matches, then India will be in the ascendancy.
Rohit Sharma, despite a poor Test series, is also a man who could also be the difference-maker for India given the hosts are without the injured AB de Villiers for the first three matches.
South Africa and India will vie for the world number one ranking again when they meet in a six-match one-day international series, starting at Kingsmead on Thursday.
The one-day games start just five days after India retained their top ranking in Tests, although second-placed South Africa closed the points gap by winning the series 2-1.
South Africa are on top of the International Cricket Council one-day rankings by a slender one point from India. With the points adjusted after each match, there is the potential for the number one position to change from match to match.
But South African coach Ottis Gibson is less concerned about the rankings than the long-term goal of winning the 2019 cricket World Cup in England.
South Africa picked a big squad of 15 for the first three games and Gibson said there was a possibility other players could be considered for the last three.
“We’re the number one team at the moment but that doesn’t mean a lot leading up to a World Cup,” said Gibson.
“Winning isn’t the be-all and end-all at this stage. There is a fine line and we will try and ensure that whatever team we pick has an equal chance of winning but we have a goal and a vision leading up to the World Cup and we want to expose as many players as possible.”
— BCCI (@BCCI) January 30, 2018
Unlike the Tests, the one-day internationals could be dominated by batsmen, with six of the world’s top ten one-day batsmen in action on pitches which, unlike the Tests, should favour aggressive stroke play.
Indian captain Virat Kohli heads the ICC batting list, closely followed by his South African friend and Indian Premier League teammate AB de Villiers.
But De Villiers will miss the first three games because of a finger injury he suffered during the third Test.
Indian vice-captain Rohit Sharma and South Africans Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis and Hashim Amla are also in the top ten, while India’s MS Dhoni and Shikhar Dhawan are at 13 and 14 on the list.
India, meanwhile, will look to the recent example of England in Australia, where the tourists overturned a Test series defeat with an emphatic one-day triumph.
India, too, have a biq squad, with only eight of nine of their 17 players having played in the Test series. Nine of the South Africans played in the Tests.
South Africa: Faf du Plessis (capt), Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock, JP Duminy, Imran Tahir, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Lungi Ngidi, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Khaya Zondo.
India: Virat Kohli (capt), Rohit Sharma (vice-captain), Jasprit Bumrah, Yuzvendra Chahal, Shikhar Dhawan, MS Dhoni, Shreyas Iyer, Kedar Jadhav, Dinesh Karthik (wkt), Kuldeep Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Axar Patel, Ajinkya Rahane, Shardul Thakur.
Bangladesh have included veteran spinner Abdur Razzak in place of injured Shakib Al Hasan for the first Test against Sri Lanka, a team official said. Shakib was ruled out of the Test starting on Wednesday in Chittagong after injuring a little finger during the tri-series final against the islanders last weekend.
The 35-year-old Razzak, who bowls left-arm spin, was recalled to the side four years after he played his last Test against the West Indies in 2014.
“It is not easy to find a replacement for Shakib. We need someone experienced to replace him. Sunzamul has yet to play any Test, so we recalled Razzak,” said chief selector Minhajul Abedin.
“Now we will see his fitness in training before we finally include him in the playing team,” he said.
Shakib Al Hasan is out of the first Test against Sri Lanka. He has bruising and swelling in his left hand for which he required stitches.— Mohammad Isam (@Isam84) January 27, 2018
Razzak, one of three Bangladeshis to take more than 200 wickets in one-day internationals, played only 12 Tests after making his debut in 2006. He picked up 23 wickets.
He showed his form with the red ball in the ongoing domestic first-class competition, Bangladesh Cricket League, where he took 20 wickets in three matches. During the tournament he grabbed the spotlight by becoming the first Bangladeshi player to take 500 wickets in first-class cricket.
Earlier, Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Mortaza was fined 20 per cent of his match fees for aggressive behaviour during his team’s loss in the tri-nation ODI final against Sri Lanka. Match referee David Boon fined Mashrafe after his on-field run in with Sri Lankan batsman Kusal Mendis.