5 Indian players to watch out for ahead of T20I series vs South Africa

New Delhi: With IPL debutants Gujarat Titans crowned champions in front of a record crowd of 1,04,859 fans at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad on May 29, the cricketing action now shifts to India’s road to the Men’s T20 World Cup in Australia to be held in October-November this year.

The first match of the series, to be held on June 9 at the Arun Jaitley Stadium, will act as a platform for the Indian team to chase a 13-match winning streak in T20Is. Currently, India are level with Afghanistan and Romania for most consecutive wins in T20Is at 12.

India have opted to rest their main players Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah with KL Rahul leading the 18-member side and Rishabh Pant serving as his deputy. But with newbies and veteran players in the mix, here are five Indian players to watch out for in the series against South Africa:

Hardik Pandya

Hardik Pandya dished out a fitting response to his critics when he delivered a highly-influential all-round display in the IPL 2022 final against Rajasthan Royals, taking 3/17 with the ball and making a patient 34 with the bat. The Gujarat Titans skipper was surrounded with concerns about his fitness, especially bowling with his right-arm pace.

But Pandya successfully steered his side to their maiden IPL title in front of his home crowd in Ahmedabad. He wrapped up the season with 487 runs in 15 matches at an average of 44.27, with four half-centuries apart from picking eight wickets and goes into the T20I series against South Africa oozing with confidence. There’s no denying that the spotlight will be on Pandya and his all-round skills in the five-match series.

KL Rahul

KL Rahul’s leadership together with his batting earned him great plaudits during Lucknow Super Giants’ campaign, where they crashed out of eliminator, in IPL 2022. Rahul the opener had a stellar season with the bat, becoming the second-highest run-getter in the tournament, scoring 616 runs at an average of 51.33 though a lot of debate has been on his strike rate of 135.38.

India would be hoping that Rahul becomes a little bit more aggressive with the bat at the top apart from extending their 12-match winning streak in the format against the Proteas.

Dinesh Karthik

Dinesh Karthik did not just knock at the selection doors but slammed it wide open with scintillating consistent performances as a specialist finisher for Royal Challengers Bangalore in IPL 2022. Karthik, who also won the IPL’s ‘Super Striker of the Season’ award with a jaw-dropping strike-rate of 183, proved his finishing credentials once again, making 242 runs at a strike rate of 220 in the death overs phase.

With the call-up to the T20I squad against South Africa done, Karthik would like to replicate his IPL 2022 performances in the Indian jersey and grab a spot in the flight to Men’s T20 World Cup in Australia later in the year.

Umran Malik

The Sunrisers Hyderabad pace machine from Jammu caught everyone’s attention with consistently clocking speeds in excess of 150 kmph every match. Though Lockie Ferguson snatched the award for fastest ball of the tournament with a 157.3 kmph thunderbolt, Umran left Indian fans thrilled with his raw pace.

In his first full IPL season, Umran has scalped 22 wickets with his best performance of 5/25 against eventual champions Gujarat Titans. Legends of the game have all backed Malik to be a future India player and it remains to be seen if he continues to keep the speed gun busy against South Africa with greater control on line and length.

Arshdeep Singh

Arshdeep Singh has been another young pacer, just like Malik, who left many people excited in IPL 2022. The 23-year-old had been the go-to bowler for Punjab Kings in the death overs with his ability to nail the yorkers and targeting the block hole consistently.

All of this has meant that Arshdeep finished the season with death-overs economy rate of 7.58 apart from taking 10 wickets with best bowling figures of 3/37. Arshdeep, a member of India’s U19 World Cup winning squad in 2018, will be eager to carry his good form from IPL 2022 against South Africa.

India’s five-match T20I series against South Africa will be broadcasted live on Star Sports on the TV and Disney+ Hotstar app.

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