The Indian cricket team will start their prolonged home season with a three-match Twenty-20 Internation (T20I) series against South Africa, to be started from September 15. Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association’s (HPCA) scenic stadium in Dharamshala will be the host to the first match.

With an eye set on next year’s ICC T20 World Cup in Australia, the Virat Kohli-led Indian team would be hoping to find the right combination during the first phase of the home season. Following a whitewash of the current T20 world champions West Indies, the Men in Blue would be confident of extending their unbeaten run against the Proteas at home.

Before the multi-nation event starts in October next year, head coach Ravi Shastri will have 20 odd matches to test as many players as he can. The team will see a lot of players coming in and going out within the 13 months that are there before the team head to Australia. Next year’s Indian Premier League might also bring in some of the players who at the current moment are out of the contention for a spot in the squad of the shortest format.

There are be some players who would be keen to prove their mettle and get a concrete place in the side. Manish Pandey is one such player and despite having tonnes load of quality he has failed to inspire the management to award him a constant place. Shreyas Iyer is, more or less, set to become India’s long term number in the limiter-overs outings and if he continues with his good touch there should not be any changes. Thus, for Pandey, he will have to work his game to suit a position below that.

The other lower-order positions hang empty as Kohli and Shastri have not yet finalized if they want to go with Krunal Pandya or Ravindra or have both the all-rounders in the playing eleven. However, it has been a good resurrection for the old fox Jadeja, while Krunal, too, seems to be doing a lot to be in the good favours of the management. Hardik Pandya is confirmed of one of the lower-order positions having proven his exploits with the bat over the years.

On the bowling front, Jasprit Bumrah, though he has been rested for the series against South Africa along with Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, will be the first choice pacer. The series will thus give the opportunity to the likes of Navdeep Saini, Khaleed Ahmed and Deepak Chahar to get into the good books of the selectors and earn their spots beside the pacers who have been rested.

With Kuldeep Yadav not playing, Washington Sundar needs to take out something extra-ordinary to have a confirmed spot or the team would go with Jadeja and Krunal, given they possess better batting abilities. Another notable mention among the players who would be keenly watched is Rishab Pant. Match after match, he has failed and yet the selectors have sustained their trust in him. However, this could well be his last chance with the likes of Sanju Samson and Ishan Kishan knocking the doors with repeated good performance in the domestic circuits.

For the South Africans, this series comes as a testing ground amidst the transitional phase that they find themselves in right now. The Quinton de Kock-led side will be looking at the star players like Kagiso Rabada and David Miller to inspire the young lot. After a dismal World Cup campaign in England, the team from the rainbow nation should put out their determination to emerge as a strong unit before next year’s World Cup in Australia.

Test specialist like Temba Bavuna and Anrich Nortje must prove themselves in the shortest format and cement their places to help the team find the perfect combination. Ommission of former skipper Faf du Plessis reflects that the South African management is looking for a long-term squad and the players must be patient and not get disappointed over one or two results.

Squads:

India: Rohit Sharma (vc), Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Virat Kohli (c), Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Rishabh Pant, Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Washington Sundar, Deepak Chahar, Rahul Chahar, Khaleel Ahmed, Navdeep Saini.

South Africa: Quinton de Kock (c), Rassie van der Dussen (vc), Temba Bavuma, Junior Dala, Bjorn Fortuin, Beuran Hendricks, Reeza Hendricks, David Miller, Anrich Nortje, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, George Linde.