With India guaranteed an unassailable lead in the series, the third T20I provides an opportunity for Virat Kohli to tinker with the combination. However, whether the Men in Blue are willing to risk losing a series-win for the bigger picture of next year’s World Cup is to be seen.
Rohit Sharma: Rohit looked in sublime touch at Mohali, for all of two balls. Either side of that, he looked rusty – strange for someone who seemed to be batting on a different planet just a couple of months ago. But just those two sixes that showcased a glimpse of his class is enough to give him confidence for a happy hunting experience at the Chinnaswamy – a puny playing field for the hitman. And Rohit will need a decent score to carry some confidence into his debut Test series as an opener in less than ten days' time.
Shikhar Dhawan: Perhaps the best thing about the Rohit-Dhawan duo is their ability to complement the other’s mood on a given day. As Rohit looked to blow the cover off the leather on Wednesday, Dhawan settled into the anchor role and found some much-needed form. That he was dismissed by one of the greatest catches ever is not on him – he even timed that shot well. Come Sunday, Dhawan will want to capitalise on the inexperience of the Protea attack and maybe get his first T20I fifty in 10 innings.
Virat Kohli: Much like the World T20 quarter-final against Australia in 2016 – with less at stake – the Indian skipper was the heartbeat of the Men in Blue. Yes, the South African bowlers are inexperienced, but the ease with which King Kohli dealt with them was a sheer delight for any cricket lover. As he heads to his adopted home in Bengaluru, Kohli will want to treat his most adoring fans to the fullest.
Shreyas Iyer: There may be a case to be made to include Manish Pandey in the playing XI, but since his comeback into the national team, Iyer has literally not put a foot wrong. Slowly, but surely, Iyer is making either one of the middle-order spots – No.4 or No.5 – his own with his maturity in the middle. But the 24-year-old will know all too well that he cannot relax just yet and so will be keen to produce something special tomorrow.
Rishabh Pant: At what point the support system for Pant gives up is still unknown, but there are clear warning signs everywhere. First, there was the “maximum five chances” announcement from Kohli, then the guarantee of a “rap on the knuckles” by Ravi Shastri, then the “careless-fearless” comment by Vikram Rathour, and most recently, the “backups being groomed” announcement by the selectors. Can the young sensation finally live up to the billing under enormous pressure?
Hardik Pandya: Hardik produced an average performance at Mohali – nothing to raise concerns, but nothing to dazzle anybody either. Perhaps one of the biggest positives was the way he helped stem the flow of runs with his constant change of pace. However, the Mumbai Indians man is used to stealing the show with his all-round brilliance, not play second fiddle. And if a chance comes his way tomorrow, Hardik will be itching to grab it with both hands.
Krunal Pandya: The decision to play Krunal on Wednesday even though Ravindra Jadeja was already included was a puzzling one. In the end, it proved to be a near-complete waste as Krunal only bowled a single over and did not bat. At Bengaluru, it is even more unlikely that Kohli picks both his left-arm spinning all-rounders. Why Krunal then? Purely because Jadeja has played continuously since the latter part of the World Cup and he has a Test series coming up as well.
Washington Sundar: One might be tempted to drop Sundar on a small ground for a pacer. But given the tight spell he bowled in the Powerplay on Wednesday and the fact that he will be playing his home ground with RCB, Sundar gets the nod for Sunday. If he can deliver the goods at the Chinnaswamy as well, he will make a strong case to be a consistent member in the T20 outfit.
Deepak Chahar: In the absence of the senior men, Deepak stepped up to the task at Mohali, with a fine spell of two for 22. His spell up-front held one end tight and induced a mistake off Reeza Hendricks. By varying the pace and digging deliveries into the pitch at the back end of the Proteas’ innings, Deepak showed that he can adapt as per the demands of the situation. All of his T20 experience will come into play as he runs in tomorrow.
Rahul Chahar: Now, here’s where things get tricky. Because it is a small ground, it is reasonable to want to protect your spinners. But the same fact of the size of the ground is what lures batsmen into assault mode. And that’s a prime opportunity to play a leg-spinner solely to hunt for wickets. Also, why bother picking a leggie, if you weren’t going to play him even once.
Khaleel Ahmed: Perhaps it is unwise to unleash Saini completely just yet. Perhaps, come Sunday, it will be more prudent to go back to Khaleel, who is the most experienced of the three at the international level. But with the host of fast bowlers at India’s disposal, Khaleel will be wary of setting down a marker with the captain and coach as they attempt to pick the 18 players for the 2020 World T20 in Australia.
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