While the 2019 World Cup is well and truly under way with most teams having already played twice, India open their campaign against South Africa in Southampton on Wednesday.
India spent their downtime before the opening clash out and about in the UK, including a game of paintball. They have been judicious with their training schedule as most players featured in the recently concluded IPL. However, they will have to hit the ground running against a South African side that has already played two tough games, even though they lost both.
WILL INDIA GO WITH JADEJA?
India entered the World Cup without any clarity over the vexing No4 batting position. But after the final warm-up match against Bangladesh, they seem to have zeroed in on KL Rahul in the middle order after their top three of Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli.
MS Dhoni and Hardik Pandya form the lower middle order while pacers Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami are certainties. Two spots should be taken by wrist spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal, who terrorised South Africa during the ODI series in their backyard last year.
Kedar Jadhav has also been declared fully fit and should walk into the playing XI. That leaves no place for Ravindra Jadeja and Kohli will have to decide whether to drop one of the wrist-spinners for the southpaw. Kuldeep was horribly out of form in the recent IPL but looked good in India’s warm up win over Bangladesh and it will be a straight toss up between him and Jadeja for the playing XI spot.
However, with Wednesday expected to be cloudy, India could also go in with one less spin option and play all-rounder Vijay Shankar who fits anywhere in the order and can bowl a few seam-up overs.
PROTEAS DEALT STEYN BLOW
It has gone from bad to worse for South Africa. They first suffered a chastening defeat in the tournament opener against England which included a hit to the head to Hashim Amla by Jofra Archer.
That forced the opening batsman to sit out the next game against Bangladesh, which turned out to be an even bigger disappointment as the Proteas succumbed to a 21-run defeat and also saw pacer Lungi Ngidi suffer a hamstring injury.
Amla returned to training ahead of the India match but the bigger news was the return of pace ace Dale Steyn in the nets. The veteran quick has been on the sidelines for more than two weeks after picking up a shoulder injury in the IPL.
However, Steyn’s return to the nets turned out to be a false dawn as the fast bowler was ruled out of the World Cup with a shoulder injury.
Left-arm pacer Beuran Hendricks has been named as Steyn’s replacement but he only due to arrive in Southampton on match day. The India game might have come a little too soon for Hendricks and that should see Chris Morris get another go.
South Africa: Quinton de Kock (wk), Hashim Amla, Aiden Markram, Faf du Plessis (c), David Miller, Rassie van der Dussen, Chris Morris, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kasigo Rabada, Dwaine Pretorious, Imran Tahir.
India: Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli (c), KL Rahul, MS Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Kedar Jadhav, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Kuldeep Yadav/Ravindra Jadeja, Yuzvendra Chahal
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