India's top order batsmen need to hit form
Having levelled the five-match series with a thrilling one-run victory in the last game, an injury-hit India goes into the third One-Day International against South Africa, in Cape Town, with the form of their top order batsmen continuing to be a worry.
The batting came a cropper in the first two ODIs, the visitors pulling off an incredible victory at the New Wanderers on Saturday mainly because of the efforts of the bowlers, especially pacer Munaf Patel.
The Indians suffered a big jolt when Sachin Tendulkar had to return home because of a hamstring injury, further weakening the batting line-up, which has plenty of talent but yet to come to terms with the pacy tracks in South Africa.
Tendulkar's exit only added to India's cup of woes as three key players -- Virender Sehawag, Gautam Gambhir and Praveen Kumar - were already ruled out of the series due to injuries.
Thanks to some superb bowling, India was able to defend a low total of 190 in the second ODI. Now, yet again, the onus is on the bowlers to deliver the goods on a Newlands track that is expected to assist the quick bowlers.
Image: Munaf Patel
Harbhajan has big role to play
India will be hoping that the pace duo of Zaheer Khan and Munaf Patel not only get wickets but also keep the Proteas batsmen in check.
Spin spearhead Harbhajan Singh has done his bit by putting the brakes on the scoring in the middle of the rival innings and yet again has to ensure that not many runs leak during that stage, which played a part in India's series-levelling win at Johannesburg on Saturday.
Batting has always been India's strong point but the form of the batsmen in the ongoing series is a big disappointment. With seniors missing from the ranks, the youngsters, who have actually done well in the recent past, have not been able to cope with the conditions.
Image: Harbhajan Singh
'Important that Yuvraj strikes form'
The middle-order, except for Yuvraj Singh in the last game, has just not clicked. Suresh Raina nor Rohit Sharma, who are both regarded as highly talented players, are not even pale shadow of themselves although they contributed with the ball as part-timers.
Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh have scored a fifty each so far and India need one of these youngsters to play a big knock on Tuesday if the visitors hope to take the lead.
Lack of a good start has also put pressure on the middle order and India's problems have just compounded with Tendulkar's absence and India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni knows the importance of Yuvraj in that situation.
"His (Yuvraj's) role in the batting line-up is crucial. If we get good start then he can come and score quick runs and if we lose few wickets then he can control the game with a solid innings. He played very well in the match.
"It is important that Yuvraj gets into good form. He is now a decent all-rounder for us as he also bowls a few overs," Dhoni said.
Diminutive wicket-keeper Parthiv Patel has been sent as Tendulkar's replacement and it will be a big challenge for the left-hander to do the tough opening job in trying conditions, if he gets a chance to play on Tuesday.
Image: Yuvraj Singh
Time Murali Vijay fires
It's time that Murali Vijay scores some runs to show his worth in the short format. He got into the side due to absence of both Sehwag and Gambhir but has not capitalised.
The South African batsmen, especially the top-order, are in terrific form and an ecore of the Johannesburg performance would be difficult for the Indian bowlers.
Hashim Amla, AB de villiers, JP Duminy are in good touch and captain Graeme Smith himself has struck form after a listless show in the drawn Test series. It would require a really disciplined effort from Indian bowlers to nail the Proteas batsmen.
The teams (from):
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain/keeper), Sachin Tendulkar, Murali Vijay, Yuvraj Singh, R Ashwin, Piyush Chawla, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Virat Kohli, Praveen Kumar, Ashish Nehra, Munaf Patel, Yusuf Pathan, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, S Sreesanth.
South Africa: Graeme Smith (captain), Hashim Amla, Johan Botha, AB de Villiers (wicketkeeper), Jean-Paul Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir, Colin Ingram, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Robin Peterson, Dale Steyn, Lonwabo Tsotsobe.
Match starts 1800 hrs (IST).
Image: Murali Vijay