The Proteas did go into the series with the upper hand after the hosts rested their key players like Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Jasprit Bumrah. It did not help that captain KL Rahul was injured just a day ahead of the series. As a result, India had to name Rishabh Pant as captain for the T20Is.
Despite the absence of star names, the Men in Blue were expected to put up a good fight in the series against the South Africans. But after just two matches, they now stare at the prospect of a series loss. Team India competed well in both games but have failed to keep up the pressure, an area where their opponents have been much more clinical.
As Team India face a must-win situation in Vizag, we take a look at three possible changes they could ponder upon.
#1 Venkatesh Iyer for Ruturaj Gaikwad
The move might be seen as a bit unfair on Ruturaj Gaikwad. He has only just got his chance after a lengthy wait on the sidelines in the previous series. However, it would be fair to say that he hasn’t looked the part in international cricket so far. In the five T20Is that he has played till date, Gaikwad has only managed a total of 63 runs at a strike rate of 114.54.
He has opened in both the games so far against South Africa but has failed to impress. He managed 23 runs in the first game and just one in the second. In both matches, he fell to soft dismissals.
Unlike the Ruturaj Gaikwad of IPL 2021, the 25-year-old has not been his same fluent self. Even for the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in the IPL this year, he blew hot and cold.
Of course, Team India do not have too many opening options in their squad. They could try out Venkatesh Iyer, who can open the innings as well as bat in the middle order.
Like Gaikwad, Iyer too did not have a great IPL. However, he did find some rhythm towards the end, hitting a brisk 43 for the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) against the Mumbai Indians (MI). Will the Men in Blue explore this option?
#2 Umran Malik for Axar Patel
The clamor has been growing for young fast bowler Umran Malik's inclusion in the wake of India’s disappointing bowling performance in the two matches so far. Even the legendary Sunil Gavaskar has backed the Jammu and Kashmir fast bowler to be a part of the playing XI for the third T20I. He went on to state that Umran is only the second player he is excited to see, the first being Sachin Tendulkar (as per Times Now).
Barring Bhuvneshwar Kumar (4/13) in the second T20I, none of the bowlers have made any kind of an impact on the South Africans. The spinners, in particular, have been completely ineffective. Yuzvendra Chahal had figures of 0 for 26 from 2.1 overs in the first T20I and one for 49 from four overs in the second. Axar Patel returned with figures of one for 40 from four overs in Delhi and 0 for 19 from one over in Cuttack.
If Umran comes in for Axar, it will weaken the batting as Harshal Patel will have to move up to No. 7 in the order. But dropping frontline spinner Yuzvendra Chahal might not be a smart move as he can still prove to be a wicket-taker. Hence, if India have to make a change in their bowling, Axar might have to make way.
Umran’s presence might not guarantee a turnaround for Team India, but the fast bowler won’t be kept wondering.
#3 Arshdeep Singh for Avesh Khan
This could be another change India could ponder upon. Avesh Khan has not done a bad job with the ball. He went for 35 in his four overs in the first T20I and 17 from his three overs in the second. However, he hasn’t looked as penetrative as Team India would have liked him to be and has been wicketless.
The 25-year-old had a reasonable IPL 2022 season for the Lucknow Super Giants (LSG) but struggled for rhythm towards the end. He was hammered for 60 in four overs by KKR and had figures of 1 for 44 in the Eliminator against the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB). He is perhaps lacking a bit of confidence.
Although Arshdeep Singh did not pick up too many wickets in IPL 2022, he was consistently effective with the ball for the Punjab Kings (PBKS), especially at the death. The young left-arm seamer hits a very good length, which makes it difficult for the batters to go after him. He has been consistent for PBKS over the last couple of seasons.
With Team India building their squad for the T20 World Cup in Australia, this could be the right time to give Arshdeep a go to see how he fares under pressure.