Injury woes for India ahead of T20 vs South Africa
Durban: On a high after drawing a Test series on African soil for the first time, India have been left to deal with a couple of injury setbacks as they take on South Africa, sans Test skipper Graeme Smith, in the only Twenty20 International match of the tour here on Sunday.
In an engrossing Test series, India managed to keep the overall scoreline 1-1 after losing the first, winning the second and drawing the third to maintain their number one status in the ICC rankings.
However, the final Test took its toll as opener Gautam Gambhir, who had come back from a hand injury after skipping the second Test, hurt his elbow at Newlands and was ruled out.
The other opener Virender Sehwag was already sidelined for the rest of the tour as a precautionary measure due to a sore shoulder which had kept him out of action for quite a few weeks last year as well.
Besides Gambhir and Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar is the only recognised opener in the squad but he has played only one T20 international in his career, against South Africa at Johannesburg in 2006.
The senior batsman has also not figured in an ODI since February last year and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni will have to sort out the opening slots as soon as possible.
Tomorrow`s match will also see the return of left-handers Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina in the middle order.
A lot of focus will also be on Yuvraj Singh who comes back to the venue where he famously hit six successive sixes against England`s Stuart Broad during the 2007 T20 World Cup.
Raina, who hit a bad patch recently and was dropped from the side after the first Test, will also look to prove his worth before the ODI World Cup next month.
Virat Kohli, who hit three of his four ODI centuries in 2010, and Yusuf Pathan, who cracked his maiden one-day hundred against New Zealand last December, will also return to boost the batting order.
Among bowlers, Zaheer Khan and S Sreesanth will lead the pace attack, which will also have seamers Ashish Nehra, Praveen Kumar and Munaf Patel.
In the spin department, off-spinner Harbhajan Singh will look to continue his red-hot form, while Ravichandran Ashwin and comeback man Piyush Chawla will look to raise their stake before next month`s World Cup.
South Africa, on the other hand, were dealt a severe blow yesterday when Smith was ruled out from tomorrow`s match because of hand bruises and the onus now would be on new skipper Johan Botha to inspire the side.
Botha will have the experience of Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers and JP Duminy at his disposal, while new batsman David Miller, will also look to boost the side with his youthful exuberance.
Youngsters Colin Ingram and all-rounder Robin Peterson will also add freshness to the side and Botha will hope they come good against the 2007 T20 world champions tomorrow.
The match will be an emotional affair for the South Africans as the Moses Mabhida Stadium, which hosted the 2010 FIFA world Cup, will have pacer Makhaya Ntini playing his last international cricket match.
Ntini will look for a perfect send off by coming up with the kind of pace bowling spell that made him one of the most bankable pacers in the team.
Besides, the Proteas pace department will also have Rusty Theron and Wayne Parnell joining Lonwabo Tsotsobe, who created much discomfort for the Indians in the just-concluded Test series.
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Murali Vijay, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Praveen Kumar, Munaf Patel, R Ashwin, Yusuf Pathan, Piyush Chawla, S Sreesanth.
South Africa: Johan Botha (captain), Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Jean-Paul Duminy, Colin Ingram, David Miller, Makhaya Ntini, Wayne Parnell, Robin Peterson, Rusty Theron, Lonwabo Tsotsobe.