PAARL: Two deposed captains, Virat Kohli and Quinton de Kock, could play significant roles in a three-match One-day International series between South Africa and India, starting at Boland Park in Paarl on Wednesday.

Both former skippers have the potential to be the leading batters for their respective sides.

For Kohli, it will be the first ODI series since Rohit Sharma was named captain by the Indian selectors in December.

Even though Sharma had to withdraw from the series in South Africa because of injury, the captaincy was not returned to Kohli but was passed to KL Rahul.

Kohli, who captained India in 95 ODIs with a 65-27 win-loss ratio, made it clear after India’s Test series defeat last week that he could speak about the coming one-day games purely “from a player’s point of view”.

“You are obviously very driven and motivated to perform in any match you play for India. As an individual I can definitely say that I am looking forward to the ODI series and I am driven to perform in those ODI games,” said Kohli who subsequently stepped down from the Test captaincy.

De Kock was made South Africa’s long-term white-ball captain in February 2020 and was made Test captain for four matches last season. But he did not seem comfortable in the role and a decision was made last March to put Temba Bavuma in charge of the white-ball teams, with Dean Elgar taking over as Test captain.

De Kock, who was already due to miss the last two Tests against India on paternity leave, announced after the first Test last month that he was retiring from Test cricket, although he remained available for limited-overs games.

The series marks De Kock’s return to action for the first time since becoming the father of a baby daughter. He fell to two indifferent shots in his final Test match and South Africa will be hoping for a return to the free-flowing, motivated batsman who hit three centuries in successive matches against India eight seasons ago.

The series is not part of the International Cricket Council’s World Cup Super League but South Africa in particular will be keen to record their first ODI series win since beating Australia 3-0 in March 2020 before cricket was effectively shut down by the coronavirus pandemic.

Since then, series against India and England have been aborted because of the virus, they have lost against Pakistan and Sri Lanka and have had to share the honours against Ireland and the Netherlands.

One match was lost, one won and another rained off in Ireland and the first match of a series against the Netherlands was washed out and the remaining matches postponed because South Africa was placed on a coronavirus travel “red list”.

India won the only two ODI series they played in 2021, at home against England and away against Sri Lanka.

Meanwhile, South Africa captain Temba Bavuma said they are mulling over whether to select a specialist batsman or all-rounder at number six for the opening ODI.

They have used Andile Phehlukwayo or Wiaan Mulder at six in the batting line-up recently, including the 2-1 series loss in Sri Lanka in September.

“As a captain you want as many resources as you can,” Bavuma told reporters on Tuesday. “You have to accept that probably one bowler on the day won’t hit his straps.

“I would like to have as many options as I can, taking into account the team balance.”

Rahul said South Africa will face a trial by spin in the first ODI on the slower, lower pitch at Boland Park.

South Africa have had well documented troubles against spin in the past and Rahul believes the returning Ravichandran Ashwin and Yuzvendra Chahal will be a handful for the hosts in the first two games, with the third to be staged at Newlands in Cape Town on Sunday.

“We have practised for a couple of days at Boland Park and the pitch does look like it might offer a lot more for the spinners than what we saw in the Test series,” Rahul told reporters.

Published in Dawn, January 19th, 2022

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