India will be looking to round off their T20 World Cup preparation with a marked improvement in their death bowling besides providing crucial game time to its untested players in the three-match series against South Africa, starting in Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday.
India skipper Rohit Sharma, expectedly, singled out death bowling as an area that requires improvement following the T20I series win over Australia.
The hosts will be without two of their key bowlers, Hardik Pandya and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who have been rested ahead of the ICC event next month.
Mohammad Shami, who is one of the World Cup reserves, is yet to recover from COVID-19 and will be missing the three games against the Proteas after being unavailable the rubber against Australia.
Harshal Patel did not have the best of times in his comeback series against Australia but he will be expected to get back to his best in the final three games before the World Cup. His career economy rate stands at 9.05 but he conceded more than 12 runs per overs against the Aussies.
Deepak Chahar, who is also on standby for the Word Cup, did not get a game in the previous series and he could get a chance if the team decides to rotate its pacers over the three games.
Arshdeep Singh will return to bolster the team's resources in the slog overs, making an effective combination alongside Jasprit Bumrah, who will aiming to regain his full rhythm after coming back from injury.
In the the series decider against Australia, Yuzvendra Chahal showed what he can do if the ball is gripping and turning after looking flat in the first two games. Keeping the Australian conditions in mind, the wily leg-spinner will be looking to up his game on docile pitches.
As Rohit spoke about the importance of giving all the players game time ahead of the World Cup, veteran spinner Ravichandran Ashwin could get a look in.
In the batting department, K L Rahul would like to make the most of these three games after missing out in the last two games against Australia.
With Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma are looking in good touch, it is important that Rahul gets back his form before the team travels to Australia.
Dinesh Karthik got to play all of eights balls against Australia and Rohit has already said the designated finisher in the squad needs more time in the middle.
T20 World Cup-bound Deepak Hooda will end up missing all the six games before the mega event as he has been ruled out of the South Africa T20s with a back injury. Shreyas Iyer is expected to take Hooda's place in the squad.
Over the next week, India will be competing against a team they are yet to beat at home in a bilateral T20 series. South won the first series 2-0 in 2015, while the next two series in 2019 and 2022 finished level.
South Africa and India will face each other in a group game in the World Cup in Australia and though conditions are totally different here, both teams can pick out areas to target in the coming three games.
"The pitches in Australia will be different and ground size will be a lot bigger, but as a bowler there is always something you can work on. It is a great opportunity to be bowling at these Indian batters and pick up on a few things and use against them in the World Cup," said Tabraiz Shamsi.
All eyes will also be on the young Tristian Stubbs who has made the World Cup squad on the back of his good show in franchise cricket.
India: Rohit Sharma (captain), KL Rahul, Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant (wicket-keeper), Dinesh Karthik (wicket-keeper), R. Ashwin, Yuzvendra Chahal, Axar Patel, Arshdeep Singh, Harshal Patel, Deepak Chahar, Jasprit Bumrah.
South Africa: Temba Bavuma (captain), Quinton de Kock, Bjorn Fortuin, Reeza Hendricks, Heinrich Klaasen, Marco Jansen, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje, Wayne Parnell, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada, Rilee Rossouw, Tabraiz Shamsi, Tristan Stubbs.
Match starts at 7pm IST.
(The India vs South Africa series will be broadcast live on Star Sports channels. Live telecast is streamed on the Hotstar app.)