Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

Following a seven-wicket thrashing by South Africa, a young and experimental Indian team will eye an improved show against the visitors and look to level the five-match series 1-1 in the second T20I at the iconic Barabati Stadium in Cuttack on Sunday.

The Rishabh Pant-led Men in Blue are playing the ongoing series against Proteas in absence of their experienced players. World class players like Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, KL Rahul, Jasprith Bumrah, Suryakumar Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav are out of the team due to rest and injury issues. Their absence can make the hosts’ comeback a tad more difficult, but they are still a good side, which has a good blend of youth and experience.

In the first match in Delhi, most of the batters did well as India posted their highest T20I score against South Africa. So, the hosts can’t ask for more from their batters. But their bowlers were hammered to all parts of the parks and they will have certainly their task cut out in the crucial game at Barabati Stadium which will be jam-packed with its full capacity of 45,000 people.  

The likes of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Harshal Patel, Hardik Pandya, and Axar Patel were taken to the cleaners by the Proteas batters. Skipper Pant will also have to rotate his bowling resources judiciously as many experts were not happy with his decision to not bowl Yuzvendra Chahal during crucial middle overs in the previous game.

It will be also interesting to see whether India will bring in Umran Malik or Arshdeep Singh or will go in with an unchanged XI.

On the other hand, South Africa are looking like a well-settled unit and many players in their squad are having an advantage of playing in IPL 2022. The batters of the visiting side have impressed one and all with their big hitting pyrotechnics. However, the contributions of skipper Temba Bavuma could soon come under scrutiny, especially with so many top-order options in the squad.

The likes of David Miller and Rassie van der Dussen showed their big hitting ability in the first game and they will be eager to repeat their heroics. The visitors have many all-round options, which are vital in T20 format.

However, Aiden Markram, who missed the first match after testing positive for Covid-19, will still be unavailable for them. Markram has remained in Delhi and will need quarantine for seven days from June 8, which rules him out of at least the first three games.

After their success in the first match, Proteas may not want to tinker with their combination. If conditions favour seamers, they may consider benching Keshav Maharaj for one of Lungi Ngidi or Marco Jansen.

India’s predicted XI: Ishan Kishan, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant, Hardik Pandya, Dinesh Karthik, Umran Malik/Arshdeep Singh, Yuzvendra Chahal, Bhuveshwar Kumar, Avesh Khan, Ravi Bishnoi.