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Dharamsala T20: Will captain Dhoni's return inspire India to win over Proteas?

Last updated on: October 01, 2015 14:47 IST
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Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni arrives at Kangra Airport, Gaggal ahead of T20 match against South Africa at Dharmsala

IMAGE: India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni arrives at Kangra airport, Gaggal, ahead of the T20 match against South Africa in Dharmsala. Photograph: PTI

Mahendra Singh Dhoni will be back at the helm as India look to get off to a winning start against formidable South Africa in the first Twenty20 International, at the picturesque HPCA Stadium in Dharamsala on Friday.

Dhoni returns to the Indian dressing room after three months and for him the series is the start of preparation for next year's World Twenty20, which India will host.

The team has newcomers, like Sreenath Aravind, who could be called up to the playing eleven, keeping the big ICC T20 tournament in mind.

India are relying on their batting arsenal for the T20s. Having fully recovered from a hand injury, left-handed opener Shikhar Dhawan hit the right notes with a strokeful century against Bangladesh 'A' last month.

It will be interesting to see who will partner him at the top of the order, with Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane vying for the spot.

The middle order looks to be in place with the big presence of Test skipper Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina and Dhoni himself.

It will not be a surprise if Dhoni promotes himself up the batting order in this series, considering that he has been looking to bat more freely in recent times.

Team India players during a practice session at International Cricket Stadium in Dharamsala

IMAGE: Team India players during a practice session at the International Cricket Stadium in Dharamsala. Photograph: PTI

For one player the series assumes a lot of significance. He is senior spinner Harbhajan Singh.

Since Ravichandran Ashwin is doing a great job -- he was man-of-the-series against Sri Lanka -- it will be a challenge for the ‘Turbanator’ to break back into the team.

Even though the pitch at the HPCA stadium could assist swing bowling, it is likely that India will field two spinners. Thus, it will be fight between Ashwin and Harbhajan, even as Dhoni has Amit Mishra and Axar Patel as worthy options.

India's biggest concern is their fragile pace attack.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar hasn't played in the last six months and the series will be a test of his confidence.

Mohit Sharma and Aravind will fight for the place of second seamer.

Stuart Binny may make it to playing eleven as the conditions should suit his style of bowling. Besides, his handy batting skills can be added bonus to the team.

South African cricketers, AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla and Imran Tahir arrive at the HPCA hotel The Pavilion, ahead of the The Mahatma Gandhi-Nelson Mandela series between India and South Africa in Dharamsala on Wednesday

IMAGE: South African cricketers AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla and Imran Tahir arrive at the HPCA hotel 'The Pavilion', ahead of the The Mahatma Gandhi-Nelson Mandela series between India and South Africa in Dharamsala on Wednesday. Photograph: PTI

South Africa will look to regain their winning touch in the opening T20.

The Proteas kicked off their tour campaign with a loss against India 'A' in their T20 practice game in New Delhi on Tuesday.

The India ‘A’ team, devoid of regular national players, chased down a 190-run target at Palam where the weather was scorching.

But Dharamsala’s cooler conditions could be just what the Proteas need to bring their campaign back on track.

This series, though, could turn out to be a battle between batsmen of the two sides. The visitors’ line-up includes hard-hitters like skipper Faf du Plessis and match-winner AB de Villiers. They have the ability to blast any attack.

Then there is the ever-dependable Hashim Amla, the dangerous David Miller and Jean-Paul Duminy, who gives a lot of solidity to their batting order.

Hasim Amla (left) and captain Faf du Plessis share a joke during a South Africa nets session

IMAGE: Hasim Amla (left) and captain Faf du Plessis share a joke during a South Africa nets session. Photograph: Mark Nolan/Getty Images

Also, the experience of playing in the Indian Premier League will bring a sense of familiarity to the South Africans.

Du Plessis has in fact played under Dhoni at Chennai Super Kings and is well-versed with his style and strategies.

Having Michael Hussey in their coaching staff is also a big plus as the former Australia batsman has played a lot against India and in the IPL along with Dhoni. His inputs will assist the Proteas prepare well for the 72-day tour.

On the bowling front, the visitors' attack is packed with T20 specialists Kyle Abbott and Chris Morris.

Leg-spinner Imran Tahir can also prove foxy.

But the bowlers will certainly be under pressure after receiving a bashing at the hands of the India ‘A’ batsmen in the lone warm-up game.

South Africa's players in a huddle during their nets session

IMAGE: South Africa's players in a huddle during their nets session. Photograph: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

Du Plessis has also made it clear that this series will be an ideal start for their World T20 preparations.

"I am excited for this tour because it is in India, where we are going to play the World T20. There are a few guys who are getting opportunity, guys who can potentially make an impact in these conditions. If you look at someone like Eddie Leie, he is probably a left-field inclusion but it is to give guys who are not as experienced as playing in India through the IPL an opportunity," du Plessis has said.

"Everything that we do as a T20 side is geared towards that World T20 and there is no difference for this series."

Squads:

India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain/wk), Sreenath Aravind, Ravichandran Ashwin, Stuart Binny, Shikhar Dhawan, Harbhajan Singh, Virat Kohli, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Amit Mishra, Axar Patel, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, Mohit Sharma, Rohit Sharma.

South Africa: Faf du Plessis (captain), Kyle Abbott, Hashim Amla, Farhaan Behardien, Quinton de Kock (wk), Marchant de Lange, AB de Villiers, Jean-Paul Duminy, Imran Tahir, Eddie Leie, David Miller, Albie Morkel, Chris Morris, Kagiso Rabada, Khaya Zondo.

Match starts at 7 pm (IST).

Also read:

- Figure out India's ODI and T20 squads for the South Africa series

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