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Will Dhoni play Rahane, Mishra in dead rubber against SA?

October 07, 2015 14:47 IST
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The Eden strip is expected to be a spinner's paradise

Dhoni under pressure to deliver with the bat

Mahendra Singh Dhoni

India ODI captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (left) with Virat Kohli. Photograph: PTI

India needs to get the team composition right in the third and final Twenty20 International to prevent South Africa from recording a clean sweep, in Kolkata, on Thursday.

The series was done and dusted in Cuttack after India's humiliating six-wicket defeat. The match, interrupted twice due to unruly crowd behaviour, saw the South Africans send the hosts crashing to their second lowest total of 92.

India suffered a similar result in Bangladesh in June when they lost two One-Day Internationals on the trot before conceding the series 1-2. It was their first series defeat to the hosts.

Thursday’s T20 at Eden Gardens may be inconsequential, but it holds much importance for India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who will be looking to get into a winning momentum before the five-match ODI series against the visitors.

For this to happen, he may have to let go his preferred picks in Ambati Rayudu and Axar Patel in favour of Ajinkya Rahane and Amit Mishra.

The selection of Rayudu ahead of Rahane, considered one of the best players of the format, has come under severe criticism.

There is a strong possibility that the elegant right-hander will be included to lend stability to the side especially after the Cuttack collapse.

Virat Kohli (centre) bats

Virat Kohli (centre) bats in the nets as Ajinkya Rahane (left) and Rohit Sharma look on. Photograph: PTI

The Eden strip is expected to be a spinner's paradise, and India must capitalise by curbing the South Africans’ stroke-play on a surface which may not be conducive for good batting.

In such a scenario, Mishra seems a better bet, but it remains to be seen whether Dhoni, who considers the wrist leg-spinner to be slower in the air, picks him ahead of Patel or Harbhajan Singh.

The biggest positive for India is Ravichandran Ashwin, who has troubled the South Africans, having danger man AB de Villiers bowled on both the occasions this series.

Dhoni will hope his Chennai Super Kings teammate delivers again against the spin-wary Proteas.

Despite being the most successful Indian skipper, with a World Twenty20, 50-overs World Cup and Champions Trophy title to his credit, a certain section believes that days are numbered for the 34-year-old.

The latest defeat to South Africa has only added pressure on Dhoni, once considered the king of the limited-overs’ format.

Though there are absolutely no doubts about his fitness, his stroke-making skills have started to elude him, something evident in the slide of his strike-rate.

At Dharamsala, when it was expected that India would post around 220 after Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli's 138-run partnership off 72 balls, India managed just 41 runs from last five overs with Dhoni in the middle.

It was worse in Cuttack, where the top order failed to provide a start and the lower order, with Dhoni at No 6, failed to build a partnership.

MS Dhoni

India ODI captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, right, greets a South African player . Photograph: PTI

The visitors have so far persisted with one specialist spinner in Imran Tahir, and JP Duminy doing a part-time role.

Duminy along with David Miller may play an extended role in bowling if Faf du Plessis opts for the same attack that outdid India in home conditions.

The Proteas have another option in leg spinner Eddie Leie but it remains to be seen whether Faf risks him for the Eden T20.

"It was amazing to see all bowlers putting up a fantastic show. I think possibly it's the best bowling performance I've seen ever in T20Is," du Plessis had said.

The inclusion of Albie Morkel, who registered his best T20 performance with figures of 3 for 12 in a twist of fate to his sagging career, was a masterstroke.

The raw pace and aggression of Kagiso Rabada, Morkel's experience and Tahir's magic will once again play a vital part in the Proteas' quest of a series sweep.

Teams (from):

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

South Africa: Faf du Plessis (captain), Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers (wk), JP Duminy, Farhaan Behardien, David Miller, Chris Morris, Kagiso Rabada, Kyle Abott, Albie Morkel, Imran Tahir, Quninto de Kock, Eddie Leie, Marchant de Lange and Kyaya Zondo.

Match starts: 1900 IST.

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