The five-match T20I series against South Africa, starting on June 9th, will not exactly be the dress rehearsals for the upcoming World Cup. After this series, India will be playing 15 more T20Is and an Asia Cup before heading to Australia for the marquee event. This series, however, will determine the future of many rookies and seasoned players who have made a cut on the back of a successful IPL. 

KL Rahul, who was chosen as the stand-in skipper, will be desperate to start his first major assignment on a positive note, as it will further boost his credentials as the future captain in the limited-overs. 

Read More: 5 Players To Watch Out For In The India vs South Africa T20I Series 

Moreover, the scars of the recent tour to South Africa, where the hosts were battered in both ODIs and Tests, remain afresh. Even without Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, the squad looks incredibly strong, with a perfect blend of youth and expertise. 

South Africa, meanwhile, will be uplifted by the comeback of Anrich Nortje, who will form the one-third of the pace troika, along with Kagiso Rabada, and Marco Jansen. Each bowler presents different sorts of challenges, and thus the ability to exploit the match-ups will play a crucial role in the series. 

Let’s take a look at five battles that will have an overriding effect on the outcome of the T20I series:

1. Quinton de Kock Vs Yuzvendra Chahal

Conventional wisdom tells you never bowl a leg-spinner to left-handed batters, but the statistics tell you otherwise. Chahal has conceded just 39 runs in 44 balls he bowled to de Kock, and has managed to get the better of him on six occasions. Almost a wicket per over. Moreover, de Kock has managed to hit just four fours and a six against Chahal. 

This is going to be an important match-up, given de Kock is arguably the most proficient batter for the opponents. He starts slowly before adopting the no-holds-barred approach in the middle overs, but that’s where India can plug in Chahal to exploit his weakness against the leg-spinners.

2. David Miller vs Harshal Patel

Fresh from his heroics for Gujarat Titans, Miller will be looking to translate the IPL form to the international stage. Miller’s strike rate against Harshal hovers around 170, but he managed only 14 runs in 12 balls this season in the IPL. Containing Miller in the death overs will be a tricky task, and in the end, it may very well prove to be the difference between winning and losing. Harshal will have to be spot on with his slow dipping yorkers or else he might get clobbered all over the park.

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3. KL Rahul vs Kagiso Rabada

A battle that will set the tempo for the rest of the match. If Kagiso Rabada gets rid of KL Rahul in his opening spells, it will push India into a defensive mode straightaway. On the other hand, if Rahul gets off to a flier, the opposition camps will feel the heat. Rahul continued with his fine form in the IPL, scoring over 600 runs for Lucknow Super Giants, while Rabada finished the season with 23 wickets, out of which 10 came in the Powerplay. 

It’s important for Rahul to shed his cautiousness and take on Rabada in the early exchanges. His sluggish approach remains a matter of concern for the Indian team, as it puts too much pressure on the other batters. His strike rate of 103 in the first six overs in IPL 2022 paints a worrying picture, given teams tend to capitalise on the field restriction. 

4. Rishabh Pant vs Tabraiz Shamsi

Tabraiz Shamsi will have a point to prove after he was overlooked by the franchises for the IPL 2022, despite being the No. 1 bowler in this format. Shamsi’s main battle will be against Pant, who is not the most adept operator against left-arm unorthodox bowling. Shamsi turns the ball away from a left-handed batter, thus India needs to be mindful of this match-up. They need to complement Pant with a right-hander who can take on Shamsi.

5. Shreyas Iyer vs Anrich Nortje

Extreme pace combined with tall stature makes Anrich Nortje a perfect bowler to target Shreyas Iyer, whose weakness against anything bowled back of the length is no secret now. Iyer’s mission to get into the World Cup squad will come down to this. He has never looked convincing against short-pitched bowling, and even more so against high pace. Nortje will be itching to have a go at Iyer. 

Featured Image Credit: BCCI/ Cricket South Africa