South Africa mindful of Indian fighting spirit

NEW DELHI: A few days back, South Africa’s limited-overs captain Temba Bavuma had expressed his desire to play and lead a franchise in the Indian Premier League (IPL). Bavuma termed it as his “fantasy”. Leading an IPL team might be Bavuma’s desire, but leading his national side against India for a five-match T20I series from June 9 is a reality.

To make sure the reality turns out to be a rewarding one, Bavuma has been sweating it out at the Arun Jaitley Stadium in the national Capital – the venue for the first T20 International between the two teams. The next four will be played in Cuttack (June 12), Visakhapatnam (June 14), Rajkot (June 17) and Bengaluru (June 19).

South Africa have desisted experimentation for the series and have brought their No.1 team to the Indian shores. In comparison, India have rested regular skipper Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Jasprit Bumrah and Ravindra Jadeja – all key members of the playing XI – for the series.

Some of the top performers of the IPL have been rewarded. Speed merchant from Jammu Umran Malik, left-arm quick Arshdeep Singh will be donning the India colours for the first time, while experienced pros Dinesh Karthik and Hardik Pandya make a much-anticipated return. Bavuma is well-aware of the depth in Indian cricket, and that’s why expects a “highly-competitive” series.

“It’s obviously a new-look Indian side. A lot of guys who have done well in the recent IPL have been given opportunities. For us, as a team, we wouldn’t be looking at it (the series) any differently. We don’t really see it as taking on a ‘B’ side. The competitiveness will be there,” the South African captain said during a virtual press conference on Saturday.

“The attitude, the mindset of the Indian team, in the last couple of years has changed. It’s guys who play cricket hard, who play very competitively. Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli are not there but the Indian fighting spirit will still be there. We don’t expect it to be easy for us. We still expect it to be tough, and we’ll be approaching it (the series) in that manner.”

On Saturday, Bavuma was seen practicing different versions of the sweep shot. The conventional one, the reverse, the hard-swept one, the slog sweep over cow corner, and some others. The logical explanation has to be the ‘Kulcha’ factor. Wrist spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal have perennially troubled the South African batters. During the 2018 ODI series between the two teams in South Africa, Chahal and Kuldeep had shared 33 wickets to decimate the Proteas and hand India a 5-1 series triumph.

“It will be a challenge,” Bavuma agreed. “We’ve played against them (Kuldeep and Chahal) a couple of times, and one hopes that this time we have a better understanding. The guys are individually speaking about them. They will have their individual ways of approaching spin and how they can be successful against the pair.

“For the younger guys, it will be important how they receive the knowledge that the seniors share. But, the way we have played slow bowling over the last 18 months or so, as a group, it gives us a lot of confidence and self-belief that we can dominate spin bowling this time (in India).” Bavuma also has an eye on the upcoming T20 World Cup in Australia.

“The conditions in India don’t actually simulate conditions in Australia. In saying that, there is still a lot of benefit that we can gain from the series. We’ll be using these games to get further clarity over roles within the team,” he said.