International cricket returns to Indian soil for the first time since March when the Men in Blue take on South Africa in a three-match T20 series beginning on Sunday.
While India will be looking to extend their formidable record at home, the Proteas will be itching to bounce back after a miserable World Cup campaign.
With exciting players on both sides, the three-match series promises to be an entertaining battle and could be decided by the finest of margins.
Here, we look at three key battles that could prove decisive in the series.
Rohit Sharma vs Beuran Hendricks
The India deputy skipper had a sensational World Cup campaign where he became the first batsman to register five tons in a single edition with the first of them coming against South Africa.
The classy right-hander, however, has had his troubles against left-armed pacers in the past with both Mohammad Amir and Trent Boult giving him a tough time. That vulnerability is what South Africa will hope to exploit with the help of Beuran Hendricks.
The 29-year-old has the ability to produce quality deliveries if there is some swing in the air. He will have his task cut out, however, against a batsman who has a record four T20I tons to his name.
Navdeep Saini vs Quinton de Kock
India have placed huge faith on Navdeep Saini’s inexperienced shoulders by not picking any senior pacers like Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
Saini is likely to handle the new-ball responsibilities alongside Deepak Chahar, and the 26-year-old will be looking to build on the promise he showed in his maiden series in West Indies recently.
The right-armed pacer can crank up the speeds as well but he will have to be at the top of his game in his battle against Quinton de Kock. The explosive wicketkeeper batsman is standing in as South Africa skipper in India and he will be desperate to lead from the front with the bat.
If the Proteas man can get going in India, he can cause serious damage.
Kohli vs Rabada
Two men who have recently been overshadowed by their contemporaries will be itching to make their names heard again.
Kohli’s brilliance in West Indies was overshadowed by Steve Smith’s stunning Ashes campaign while Rabada has seen the limelight taken away from him in recent times by the likes of Jasprit Bumrah, Pat Cummins and Jofra Archer.
Both players will be the focal points for their respective teams and their duel promises to be an intriguing one. Rabada, still one of the best pacers in the game, has had his run-ins in the past with Kohli, and the dominant pair will not want to concede a single inch against each other in the upcoming series.
A battle between an elite batsman and an equally formidable world-class bowler can always ignite a series as Smith’s tussle with Archer in England just showed. This series could well be defined by how Kohli fares against Rabada.
The three-match series will be a chance for both sides to kick-start their preparations for the 2020 T20 World Cup in Australia.
For the visitors, it is their first international assignment since their dismal 2019 World Cup campaign in England and they will be looking to make a big statement under stand-in skipper Quinton de Kock.
Here, we look at three key players from both sides who will have a point to prove in the upcoming series.
Rassie van der Dussen
The 30-year-old batsman is a late entrant to international cricket with his debut for the Proteas coming only as recently as October 2018. However, the right-hander has taken no time to make a mark for his country with his game tailor-made for limited-overs cricket.
With averages of nearly 78 and 37 respectively in ODI and T20 cricket, the Proteas batsman is as consistent and he will be looking to swell his run-tally in the batting-friendly conditions of India.
The 25-year-old pacer was expected to play a big role for South Africa in the 2019 World Cup before an unfortunate injury ruled him out of the tournament.
Like Van Der Dussen, Nortje is a relative newcomer to international cricket as well, having only made his debut for South Africa in March this year. The right-armed fast bowler was highly impressive in his four appearances for the Proteas so far where he has picked up twice as many wickets.
He will be itching to prove his mettle again on the international stage after missing out on the World Cup.
The Pietermaritzburg left-hander has been around the international circuit for some time now but he has failed to justify that huge promise he showed when he first burst on to the stage.
However, he still remains a very dangerous batsman in the T20 format with his vast experience of playing in multiple franchise leagues around the globe.
His international T20 record for South Africa is decent as well with a career strike-rate of over 140 while he has managed to register a 36-ball ton against Bangladesh previously.
The star India all-rounder is returning after an extended break which saw him rested for the team’s tour of West Indies.
At 25, Pandya is starting to hit his peak years and he looked like the real deal in the 2019 World Cup for India where he picked up 10 wickets while also chipping in 226 runs from lower down the order.
He will be be desperate to get back into the thick of things and continue to build on his promising IPL and World Cup displays.
The 20-year-old was handed his India debut in the recent T20 series in the West Indies after impressing for Mumbai Indians in the IPL earlier this year.
The young leg-spinner showed a strong level of maturity in his maiden IPL campaign while maintaining a stellar economy-rate of just 6.77.
With Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav not picked for the series, it is a chance for young Chahar to stake his claim for the 2020 T20 World Cup squad.
The 21-year-old has already made 11 ODI and T20 appearances for India since making his debut in the Asia Cup last year. The Tonk youngster brings something different to the table for India’s pace attack with his left-armed seamers and has been getting progressively better since his erratic debut in 2018.
Khaleel looked good in India’s recent tour of the West Indies and the team management will be keen to persist with him in the run up to the T20 World Cup. He has the ability to bring the ball back sharply into the right-handers and will be looking to exploit that skill of the Proteas batting unit.
India have handed a maiden Test call-up to young batsman Shubman Gill for the upcoming three-match Test series at home against South Africa.
The 20-year-old batsman has been roped in as an opener for the series with KL Rahul dropped from the Test outfit after his unconvincing displays in the tour of West Indies.
Gill was the man-of-the-series when India won the U19 World Cup in New Zealand last year and he has made a stellar start to his first-class senior career as well for Punjab.
The right-handed batsman has been in excellent form of late for India A in their recent shadow tour of the West Indies as well the clashes against South Africa A at home.
India’s squad for 3 Tests: Virat Kohli (Capt), Mayank Agarwal, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (vc), Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant (wk),Wriddhiman Saha (wk), R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Shubman Gill— BCCI (@BCCI) September 12, 2019
Want to give Rohit Sharma an opportunity to open the innings in Tests - MSK Prasad— BCCI (@BCCI) September 12, 2019
In 14 first-class matches for Punjab so far, young Gill has managed to 1,443 runs at an average of over 72 with the help of four tons and eight half-centuries.
He is the only change to the India Test squad which completed a 2-0 series clean sweep in the tour of the Caribbean. Gill could be now set to partner Mayank Agarwal at the top of the batting order although he faces direct competition from Rohit Sharma who has retained his place in the Test squad.
Chief selectors MSK Prasad stated that India will seriously consider Rohit as an opener in home conditions and it will be interesting to see who gets the starting berth ultimately between the senior and junior batsmen.
“Yes, we are definitely looking at him (as opener), and we want to give him an opportunity,” Prasad said while announcing the Test squad.
“He himself is keen, and all of us in the selection committee are keen. We want to push him, and give him some opportunities up the order, and see where he stands, and then we will take a call.”
India have opted against bringing back all-rounder Hardik Pandya to the Test fold just yet after he was rested for the tour of West Indies. The 25-year-old had earlier been picked for the T20 series against South Africa which begins on Sunday.
The first Test between India and South Africa is due to get underway at Visakhapatnam on October 2.
India 15-man squad
Virat Kohli (c), Mayank Agarwal, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (vc), Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant (wk),Wriddhiman Saha (wk), R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Shubman Gill.