India-SAfrica one-off T20 ahead of IPL

Johannesburg: After the battering it was subjected to during the tour of Australia and the Asia Cup, the Indian cricket team would look to make a fresh start before the IPL razzmatazz when it takes on an in-form South Africa in a one-off Twenty20 international here on Friday. The match is being organised to commemorate 150 years of the settlement of the Indians in South Africa but its scheduling did raise a lot of eyebrows.

The match is happening just after the Asia Cup, of which India was a part, and a few days after the Proteas hosted New Zealand for a long tour, involving T20s, ODIs and a Test series.

In a cramped international calendar, the game does seem like an oddity given that the Indians would be travelling all the way for just over four hours slam bang action before getting busy with their respective IPL franchises. Only five days separate the match and the beginning of the fifth edition of the Indian Premier League. The long journey means that several players will miss initial practice camps with their respective franchises and that would certainly add to the physical strain.

However, Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni has ruled out the fatigue factor. "All happy. I don`t think fatigue will be a real factor. We all enjoy playing the IPL…that`s one format where you are not representing your country, and the span of the tournament is slightly longer so you play quite a few games," Dhoni said after arriving with the team.

The Indians are not heading into the match in the best of form given the poor form the team has endured in the past few months. As if the disastrous Australian tour was not enough, India failed to qualify for the recently-concluded Asia Cup final as well, thanks to a shock defeat against hosts Bangladesh.

On the contrary, the Proteas are in good touch as they had an extremely successful tour against New Zealand. They won the Twenty20, one-day and the Test series against the injury-ravaged Kiwis. The hosts though have retained only eight players from that tour in the Twenty20 squad. Almost all the seniors have been rested with the exception of all-rounder Jacques Kallis, who will be honoured after the match.

India, though, are almost full strength, opener barring Virender Sehwag and pace spearhead Zaheer Khan as the duo has been rested. All the players, who were part of their Asia Cup campaign, are in the squad except for veteran Sachin Tendulkar, who does not play international T20s. He has been replaced by the hard-hitting Robin Uthappa.

Since the highly-popular IPL is beginning exactly five days after the match, the game would help the players get into the slam-bang mode, although the conditions would be different from India.