A veteran or a young newbie: Which player will open with KL Rahul in South Africa vs India 1st ODI?


All eyes will be on who India select as stand-in captain KL Rahul’s opening partner. Rahul said that he will be opening the batting in the absence of Rohit Sharma, the regular skipper of the Indian limited overs team. The ODI series would have been Rohit’s first as captain of the team in the format but he had to stay back in India due to his persistent hamstring injury.

India have included Rohit’s longtime opening partner Shikhar Dhawan in the squad. Rahul has all but replaced Dhawan in the opening position in T20Is, as evidenced by the latter’s exclusion from the squad, and it remains to be seen if the veteran batter will be given another chance or if the team will go for a younger option in Ruturaj Gaikwad.

Gaikwad came into the squad on the back of an exceptional domestic season, apart from turning heads in the 2021 Indian Premier League by finishing the tournament as the highest run scorer and leading Chennai Super Kings to their fourth title. With there being a T20 World Cup this year and the ODI World Cup in 2023, India will be tempted to give Dhawan, a player who has shown a knack for performing in tournaments, a final go. It is hard to see Gaikwad playing ahead of Suryakumar Yadav or Shreyas Iyer in the middle order while Venkatesh Iyer will also find a place in the team as an all-rounder. It could mean that Gaikwad would have to wait longer for his ODI debut.

Virat Kohli will be playing in his usual No.3 position and it will be interesting to see how he plays in what will be his first match as just another player without the titles of captain or vice-captain on him in over seven years. There will be a toss-up between Suryakumar Yadav and Shreyas Iyer for the number four position. Rishabh Pant is expected to come at number five while Venkatesh Iyer is set to make his 50-over debut as the all-rounder at six, having shown promise in the T20s against New Zealand.

Iyer is also seen as the sixth bowling option. The two spinners likely to play are Yuzvendra Chahal and R Ashwin, who has made a comeback after more than four years. Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar will share the load in the pace department while for the third pace option, the management could pick Deepak Chahar, Shardul Thakur or Prasidh Krishna. Mohammad Siraj, who injured his hamstring during the Test series, is also fit as suggested by Bumrah on Monday.

On the previous tour, India hammered the hosts 5-1 in ODIs and they will draw confidence from that. South Africa will be in high spirits after a memorable victory in the five-day format. Captain Temba Bavuma played a few crucial in the preceding Tests and he will carry that confidence into his batting as well as his leadership. Quinton de Kock, who retired from Test cricket after the series opener against India, starts his life as a white-ball only player. Tall left-arm pacer Marco Jansen, who excelled in his maiden Test series, is expected to trouble the Indian batters with his extra bounce and variations in the short format after earning a maiden call-up.

So here is India’s predicted playing XIs for the 1st ODI: KL Rahul (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Shreyas Iyer, Venkatesh Iyer, Rishabh Pant (wicket-keeper), R Ashwin, Yuzvendra Chahal, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah,

South Africa squad: Janneman Malan, Aiden Markram, Temba Bavuma (captain), Rassie van der Dussen, Quinton de Kock (wicketkeeper), Dwaine Pretorius, Andile Phehlukwayo, Marco Jansen, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi



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