The India national cricket team is ready to get back in action Friday for the first time since August 27, when the Men in Blue Open a 10-week, three-series tour against another of the world’s most powerful sides, the South Africa Proteas, at the high-altitude Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium in Dharamsala, India.
In fact, the India team arrived early in Dharamsala — where they will play the opening match of a three-game T20 International series on Friday — to acclimate to the nearly mile-high conditions, pulling into the city, best known as the home of Tibet’s exiled Dalai Lama, on Tuesday for what was described as a “boot camp” training session.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday in New Delhi, the South Africans played a warm-up T20 match against an “India A” side of second-tier players — and the tour did not get off to a promising start for the Proteas as they came up short against the lower-level team, losing by eight wickets.
India Test Captain Virat Kohli posted an Instagram selfie on his way to Dharamsala, looking serious as his team approached the long series against the visiting South Africa side.
The last time the two national sides met on the oval came back on February 22, at Melbourne Cricket Ground in Australia, during the 2015 Cricket World Cup. India won that 50-overs match by 150 runs.
But next year brings another World Cup, this time in the T20 format. The tournament that opens next March will be hosted by India, so the three-match T20 series will serve as a final warm up for that event — a tournament at which both India and South Africa are expected to make strong showings, each with a good chance to win the Cup.
But historically, India have played just eight T20 matches, with India dominating, winning six. India is currently ranked fourth in the world in the ICC T20 rankings, while South Africa rank sixth, behind West Indies in the fifth spot.
The Sri Lanka T20 side holds the top ranking in the world, followed by Pakistan and Australia.
India Team Director Ravi Shastri said last week that his team will enter the South Africa series with no set lineup or strategy, planning instead to adjust on the fly based on conditions at each ground.
“You have got to respect the conditions. In this game of cricket you can’t go and say, ‘I am going to go with this team.’ Because it will backfire on you if the conditions are totally different,” Shastri said to ESPN Cricinfo. “So you might need six batsmen, you might need four-and-a-half bowlers, you might need just a bowler to do the job, to give the main bowlers the rest. And play to the conditions.”
South Africa T20 Captain Faf du Plessis said that his concern was getting his younger players accustomed to playing in front of India’s famously cricket-crazed crowds.
“A few of us are used to those crowds of 50,000 or 60,000 people, but for the younger guys it’s something to get used to. When you get there at the beginning of your career, the fans can be quite intimidating,” du Plessis said over the weekend. “The challenge for us as a team is that we have a few younger players that haven’t travelled as much so we need to try and bridge that gap as quickly as possible.”
South Africa is holding back top fast bowlers Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel for the three match T20 series, but both will join the side for the five-match ODI series that follows, and the four Test matches that will run through December 7.
The best way to watch the India vs. South Africa T20 International cricket series live online in the United States is through Willow TV, which is available via this YouTube link with a monthly subscription fee, as well as on Willow TV’s own site, accessible by clicking here.
But there are legal ways to watch Willow TV for free. Certain promotional offers make it possible to watch the all-cricket network, including the India vs. South Africa T20 series, for a limited period of time, such as the offer at this link — or try the one-month free trial of Sling TV’s International Sports Package, which includes Willow. Information on that deal can be found at this link.
[Image: Scott Barbour / Wikimedia Commons / Instagram]