In a series that appears to have little consequence ahead of the T20 World Cup, Team India and South Africa will lock horns in three ODIs. The opening encounter will take place in Lucknow on Thursday, October 6.
Shikhar Dhawan will captain an Indian side that will be without several of their first-choice stars, who will need some rest ahead of the T20 World Cup. Shreyas Iyer has been named the vice-captain of the team, which features fresh faces like Shahbaz Ahmed, Mukesh Kumar, and Rajat Patidar.
Here are three Indian players for whom the South Africa ODI series will be of utmost importance.
#3 Ravi Bishnoi
Ravi Bishnoi, one of the names who is part of the ODI squad against South Africa, is also in contention to make the traveling contingent for the T20 World Cup.
The young leg-spinner's spot in the playing XI isn't guaranteed; he will have to compete with Kuldeep Yadav. But while Kuldeep is more established at the ODI level, Bishnoi must have been picked in the squad for a reason - to get some game time ahead of the T20 World Cup.
Bishnoi is yet to play an ODI, but his T20I numbers are great - 16 wickets in 10 matches at an economy rate of a shade over seven. It remains to be seen if he will play ahead of Kuldeep, but he will be itching to make a statement that proves he should be in India's main squad for the event Down Under instead of underperforming names like Yuzvendra Chahal.
#2 Deepak Chahar
Like Bishnoi, Deepak Chahar was named in the reserves for the T20 World Cup. But just ahead of the tournament, the swing bowler might have a real chance of making the final 15.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar has been woefully expensive at the death, and without Jasprit Bumrah, India might want to bolster their batting department since their bowling seems like a foregone conclusion anyway. Chahar even bowled a terrific over at the death in the second T20I against South Africa and has a career economy rate of under nine in the last four overs of the innings.
More importantly, while Bhuvneshwar is undoubtedly a potent new-ball threat, he doesn't offer much with the bat. Chahar, who produces something similar in the powerplay and is undoubtedly an upgrade in the other departments, could sneak into India's main squad if he does well in the ODI series against South Africa.
#1 Sanju Samson
Before India's squad for the South Africa ODIs was announced, there were a few reports claiming that Sanju Samson could be rewarded for his recent consistency by being named vice-captain. Although that didn't happen, with Shreyas getting the nod instead, the keeper-batter will be one of the Men in Blue's most important players.
Samson is definitely a big part of India's future, with captain Rohit Sharma even talking up his ability to play in Australia. If he manages to out-perform the likes of Shreyas, he could give himself a major boost when it comes to T20 World Cup selection, especially since the T20I format is more suited to his game.
Regardless of the T20 World Cup, Samson is closer than he has ever been to a regular spot in India's white-ball sides. The three ODIs against South Africa will be invaluable to his career, even if he'll have to bat lower down the order because of the presence of a host of openers.
Poll : Who should be picked in India's playing XI for the SA ODIs?