Shikhar Dhawan. Photo- AFP
Lucknow: A new-look Indian team, led by Shikhar Dhawan, will aim to make a statement and be in the reckoning for next year's 50-over World Cup when the three-match ODI series against South Africa begins here on Thursday.
In the absence of big guns like Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Mohammed Shami and Ravichandran Ashwin, who are off to Australia for the T20 World Cup, the Indian selectors opted for a fresh squad that includes Mukesh Kumar and Rajat Patidar, who earned their maiden call ups.
The squad also features a few T20 World Cup reserve players.
Middle-order batter Shreyas Iyer, who is part of the reserves named for the T20 World Cup, will serve as Dhawan's deputy in the series.
Right-arm pacer Deepak Chahar and leg-spinner Ravi Bishnoi, the other players from the standby list, have also been included in the ODI team for the matches against South Africa.
Dashing opening batter Shubman Gill, who has impressed in limited opportunities in ODIs, is likely to resume his partnership with Dhawan at the top.
Among other batters, either Rahul Tripathi or Patidar is likely to make an ODI debut on Thursday.
Madhya Pradesh batter Patidar has been rewarded for his stellar performances in domestic cricket, IPL, where he turned out for Royal Challengers Bangalore, and more recently, his brilliant run for India A against New Zealand A in the four-day games. He smashed two centuries against the Kiwis.
Ruturaj Gaikwad, Sanju Samson and Ishan Kishan are the other batters in the squad who will form the fulcrum of India's middle-order.
Left-arm spinner Shahbaz Ahmed, who was recently called up to the T20I squad for the South Africa series, Bishnoi and Kuldeep Yadav form India's spin attack.
The pace department will be spearheaded by Shardul Thakur, Chahar, Avesh Khan and Mohammed Siraj and will also have new face Mukesh, a prolific red ball bowler for Bengal, who emerged as top wicket-taker in the first class games against New Zealand ‘A' and produced a stellar show in the Irani Cup match against 2019-20 Ranji champions Saurashtra.
The squad features as many as six players who could potentially make an ODI debut.
The series provides a big opportunity to the second-string players to make their presence felt and impress the selectors with noticeable performances to be in the fray for a place in next year's ODI World Cup.
But it will be a tough test for India as the South Africans will be playing for points which they need to qualify for the World Cup next year.
The Proteas will be banking on the experienced Quinton de Kock, skipper Temba Bavuma, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Reeza Hendricks and Janneman Malan to do the job in the batting department.
They boast of a potent bowling unit, which includes the likes of Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje, Wayne Parnell, Kagiso Rabada, Dwaine Pretorious, spinner Tabraiz Shamsi among others.
Weather is going to play a crucial role in the match as it has been raining incessantly here and there is also prediction of heavy showers on Thursday.
The second ODI will be held in Ranchi on October 9 and Delhi will play host to the last match on October 11.
India: Shikhar Dhawan (C), Ruturaj Gaikwad, Shubhman Gill, Shreyas Iyer, Rajat Patidar, Rahul Tripathi, Ishan Kishan (WK), Sanju Samson (WK), Shahbaz Ahmed, Shardul Thakur, Kuldeep Yadav, Ravi Bishnoi, Mukesh Kumar, Avesh Khan, Mohd. Siraj, Deepak Chahar.
South Africa: Temba Bavuma (C), Quinton de Kock (WK), Reeza Hendricks Heinrich Klaasen, Keshav Maharaj Janneman Malan, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje, Wayne Parnell, A ndile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi. PTI