The much-anticipated clash between India and South Africa will kick- off with the opening ODI at Johannesburg on Thursday. While the series is expected to be a close contest since the two teams are so well balanced, here are some battles within the war that could go a long way in determining the result of the series.
Shikhar Dhawan vs Dale Steyn: One is an explosive batsman, the other is a fiery fast bowler. Both like taking on the challenge, and hence this contest would be the most intriguing of all. Dhawan has been fearless in his batting in his second stint in international cricket, coming up with some smashing tons in the 50-over format. But, Steyn has a definite edge in this respect. He is a battle hardened fast bowler while Dhawan is still relatively inexperienced at the international stage. Facing Steyn would be among his biggest challenges in his short international career. It would be interesting to see how he rises to the occasion.
Rohit Sharma vs Morne Morkel: This could turn out to be another crucial tussle. Over the years, Rohit and Morkel have been noted both for their inconsistency and their obvious talent. In recent times however both seemed to have found their radar at the international level. Rohit, in particular, goes into the series on an all-time high, having smashed an unbelievable double ton against the Aussies in an ODI followed by two Test tons. Morkel, on the other hand, has tasted success consistently against most quality opponents. Also, he has a good record against the Indians, and will be keen to continue the good work. Getting Rohit early will be key as far as Morkel is concerned.
MS Dhoni vs Imran Tahir: Dhoni loves going after spinners. South Africa’s best bet in this case in Imran Tahir. He has shown against Pakistan that he possesses the variations to trouble good players. But, can he stop Dhoni from going for the big shots? That would be quite a significant achievement, if he manages to do so. As for Dhoni, there shouldn’t be much doubt as to how he will try and try treat Tahir.
Mohammed Shami vs Hashim Amla: India’s latest pace sensation, Shami has suddenly been pitchforked into the spotlight following some excellent performances at home. But, those have come in well-versed conditions in India against relatively weak opponents like Australia and West Indies. Can he stop the likes of Amla? He has the pace to trouble batsmen, but Amla is among the most steady and unhurried players in the modern era. Getting the better of him will need some doing.
Ravichandran Ashwin vs AB de Villiers: This contest is similar to the Dhoni vs Tahir battle. There is only one way that de Villiers knows to bat against spinners – attack. From India’s point of view, it will be up to Ashwin to try and restrict him. Ashwin has the variations, but those are no longer novelties in international cricket. Also, Ashwin’s record away from home is not as impressive. He has a point to prove against AB and co.
--By A Cricket Analyst