The South African cricket team will tour India to play three T20s, five ODI matches and four tests – in that order in a series spread over two months. India fresh from a historical series win in Sri Lanka, will be captained by Virat Kohli in Tests and Mahendra Singh Dhoni in ODIs and T20s. South Africa, meanwhile, will be led by Hashim Amla in Tests, AB De Villiers in ODIs and Faf du Plessis in T20s. They’re known to be the best touring cricket side in the last decade, easily the best test team since 2010, and have barely lost any overseas test series despite some middling limited-over performances. They tour India equally well, and have drawn or won many series over the years.
Here’s why this particular 2015 tour could be the most important and exciting of the season:
1. Both teams have suffered humiliating ODI series losses in Bangladesh. South Africa will be looking to make amends against familiar foes.
2. Mohali, the venue for the first test of the series, is where Dale Steyn and co. will set the tone and come alive. Ishant Sharma has been suspended for this test after his outburst in Sri Lanka. India will struggle without him, and will probably have to come from behind again to win a series.
3. India is a young team, still in transition. Dhoni is still the leader in limited over formats, but it helps that they just won a series under Virat Kohli in what could be the most important turning point for the team.
4. Ravindra Jadeja has been dropped. At long last.
5. Ravindra Jadeja will not be part of the Indian team in any format. Think about it.
6. R. Ashwin will be bowling at home, where he averages among the best in history. Harbhajan Singh will not be retained, and this automatically means that India could play with 11 players.
7. The selectors have a problem of plenty in tests – with them having to choose only five batsmen between Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay, K.L. Rahul, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli. In ODIs and T20s, they can experiment with new players like Gurkeerat Singh and S. Aravind. However, Amla is back in form after failing in the World Cup, as is Quinton de Kock. South Africa’s batting lineup is far stronger, and their bowlers will be on a mission after underperforming for a year.
8. Axar Patel will have another chance to prove that he is indeed the all-rounder India need and deserve, instead of Stuart Binny – who will fast prove to be the next Jadeja (read: chosen because there’s no other option). The pitches in Delhi, Mohali and Nagpur (not Bangalore) will also ensure that there’s a result in the test series. Both ODI teams are equally flawed, and T20 cricket will be more of a warm-up series.