As South Africa kick off their tour of India and build towards the T20 World Cup next year, SACricketmag.com looks at five talking points in the three-match series.
1. Build momentum
A good start is always important, but probably even more so on a 72-day tour. Getting that winning feeling from the start can keep the players fresh and excited, while also building their confidence for the ODIs and Tests to come. This mammoth tour will mentally feel a lot longer for the players who play all three formats if South Africa start poorly and don’t get results. They need to build momentum which can last them into the second part of the tour.
2. Team selections
Chopping and changing line-ups has been a trademark of Russell Domingo’s coaching tenure in the shorter formats. After two years he is still struggling to settle on some key positions, while injuries to certain players also hasn’t helped. This is a big chance for fast bowler Marchant de Lange so stake a claim for next year’s World Cup. Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel are not part of the T20 setup, which gives De Lange and Kyle Abbott the opportunity to strengthen their case. Kagiso Rabada has probably already done enough to go to the World Cup, while Domingo still has to solve the troubling No 7 batting spot.
3. Where does Hashim Amla fit in?
Quinton de Kock is back and a decision has been made to let AB de Villiers open the batting in the shortest format. As captain, Faf du Plessis bats at three, so where does that leave Amla? Is he part of the picture going forward, or is he the first-choice back-up if someone gets injured? De Villiers doesn’t want to keep wicket, so they have to play De Kock, whose best position in the shorter formats is at the top of the order. If Amla is not going to play in the T20s, why include him in the squad when you know he is also going to play in the ODIs and the Tests?
4. Batting power
AB de Villiers, Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis, JP Duminy and David Miller. That is a pretty powerful top order on paper and if they click South Africa should win most of their games. No doubt the team will lean heavily on these five men to win them games, with De Villiers and Du Plessis especially key. It’s a great mix of big hitting and measured batting and if it comes off the Proteas will be unstoppable. There is, however, just one problem…
5. Under pressure
JP Duminy and David Miller are struggling for form but South Africa can’t afford to have them perform below par. Duminy’s saving grace is his bowling, which makes it difficult to drop him. He is also a senior player and it is widely acknowledged within the team that he is a very talented and experienced batsman. The ugly truth is, he needs to show it more often. The pressure on him, across all formats, is on. Miller has the potential and the drive, but he too struggles for any kind of consistency in his game at the moment. He is one of the potential match-winners in the side, but when he’s out of form he becomes a liability who just fields well. That alone is obviously not enough.