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Will India Serve Up Kul-Cha In 1st ODI?

December 15, 2023 17:50 IST

IMAGE: Will India play spin twins Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal in Sunday's first ODI against South Africa? Photograph: BCCI

An interesting contest is on the cards as a new look Indian ODI team led by K L Rahul takes on hosts South Africa, who are also missing quite a few of their regulars, in a three-match one day series, starting in Johannesburg on Sunday.

With the 50-overs World Cup proving to be a big hit with fans, it remains to be seen if the ODI series devoid of big stars from both teams piques spectator interest.

For India, the selectors have certainly given a big hint that they are looking towards the future -- maybe the next World Cup -- as 11 of the 15 cricketers chosen are under 30.

After the disappointing loss in the World Cup final against Australia last month, the selectors have opted to try out deserving youngsters with an eye on the next World Cup in four years' time. Captain Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Shubman Gill, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj have all been given a rest.

Rahul will reprise his role as the middle order batter and wicket-keeper in the team while also handling the extra responsibility of captaincy.

Even though the composition of the ODI team is vastly different, India will be buoyed by their dominating show in the third and final T20I at the same venue on Friday when they thrashed South Africa by 106 runs to level the three-match series 1-1.

India's batting looks woefully short of experience, but there is no dearth of talent.

The highly-rated Ruturaj Gaikwad will be hoping to get a game after being ignored for all three T20Is.

He is the only specialist opener in the team and it will be interesting to see who will be his opening partner.

Sai Sudharsan, who opened for India 'A' in the first unofficial Test against South Africa 'A' and has also opened in a few games for Tamil Nadu in the Vijay Hazare Trophy one-day tournament, could partner Gaikwad at the top of the order.

There is a lot of competition for the middle order. Shreyas Iyer could slot into the crucial No. 3 position with Rahul expected to shoulder the burden at No. 4.

IMAGE: Sanju Samson, with an impressive average of 55 in 13 ODIs, could get another chance to revive his India career. Photograph: BCCI

The No. 5 slot could be a choice between Tilak Varma and Sanju Samson, with Rinku Singh set to take over the finisher's role at No. 6 following his superb knock in the second T20 against South Africa in Gqeberha on Tuesday.

Samson, who has been picked as the second wicket-keeper, missed out on the World Cup to Suryakumar Yadav and this could be his best chance to get his international career back on track. Very strong off his backfoot, he could relish batting on the hard bouncy surfaces in South Africa.

However, if India are looking for a player who can bowl a few overs they might opt for Varma as it gives them an extra cushion in case one of the leading bowlers has an off-day.

India also face some tough in their bowling. It will be interesting to see whom among the four spinners make it to the playing XI.

Kuldeep Yadav, after his match-winning five-wicket haul in the third T20I, will lead the spin attack. He could revive his 'Kul-Cha' partnership with Yuzvendra Chahal, who forced his way back after the World Cup snub with some impressive performances for Haryana in the Vijay Hazare Trophy -- 18 wickets in eight games at an economy rate of 3.70.

South African batters have traditionally struggled against wrist spin as was proved in the third T20I on Thursday when they collapsed against Kuldeep's guile. Though Kuldeep and Chahal haven't played much together in recent years, this could be a good opportunity to revive their match winning spin partnership.

Left-hander Axar Patel has been quite impactful with both bat and ball in whatever games he has played for India and he could pip Washington Sundar for the spin all-rounder's slot.

In the pace department, Mukesh Kumar and Arshdeep Singh could be the frontline pace bowlers if India opt to play the combination of two pacers plus three spinners.

Probable XI: Ruturaj Gaikwad, Sai Sudharsan, Shreyas Iyer, K L Rahul (captain, wicket-keeper), Sanju Samson, Rinku Singh, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Arshdeep Singh, Mukesh Kumar.

Who do you think should be part of India's playing for Sunday's first ODI against South Africa?

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