India will face South Africa in the first of five-match T20I series at the Arun Jaitley Stadium in Delhi on Thursday.
Both teams have faced off 15 times in the history of the 20-over format where the Men-in-Blue have a slight edge with nine wins compared to Proteas’ six victories.
India will enter the contest on Thursday as a slight underdog, largely because they will be without their three key players — captain Rohit Sharma, former skipper Virat Kohli and pacer Jasprit Bumrah.
The management would be hoping that the young players will be able to take the opportunity with both hands and fill the void created by the absence of star players.
Looking at the squad composition, the team will be heavily relying on their bowling attack to take them over the line against a formidable team like South Africa.
The presence of young pacers like Umran Malik, Avesh Khan and Arshdeep Singh will definitely excite the fans. All three of them had a more than decent time with the ball in hand during the recently concluded Indian Premier League (IPL).
They will be accompanied by veteran pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Harshal Patel and spinners Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Axar Patel and Ravi Bishnoi will definitely going to be a challenge for the visitors.
The return of star all-rounder Hardik Pandya, who led Gujrat Titans to the IPL title in their first season in the competition, will be seen as a major boost for India. The 28-year-old was in sublime form with the bat in hand during the competition and the management will be hoping for similar kinds of performances from him in the series.
In terms of the batting department, the onus will be on the likes of stand-in captain KL Rahul, wicketkeeper-batter Rishabh Pant, in-form Ruturaj Gaikwad, top-order batter Shreyas Iyer, Ishan Kishan and veteran Dinesh Karthik to help the side in posting a respectable total on the board.
South Africa will enter the contest on Thursday as slight favourites as this is the same team who missed out on a place in the semis of the ICC T20 World Cup, despite losing just one league fixture.
The management would be hoping that the players will continue producing similar kinds of performances in the series as well.
Just like India, Proteas will be also depending on their bowling to get the better of the home team with the presence of bowlers Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje, Wayne Parnell, Tabraiz Shamsi and Dwaine Pretorius.
In the batting department, the side will be heavily relying on the likes of veteran wicketkeeper-batter Quinton de Kock, Reeza Hendricks, David Miller, Aiden Markram and Rassie van der Dussen to score the bulk of the runs.
On paper, there is hardly anything to pick between the teams but South Africa are looking like a slightly better team with a more solid batting lineup and experienced players in the mix.
Also, the majority of the players have been in India for a long time so they will be very acclimatised with the conditions as well.
Therefore, the prediction is for the Temba Bavuma-led side to secure a win and take a 1-0 lead in the series.