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Ruturaj Gaikwad Drops Out? What India Could do in Must-Win T20 Against SA

India led by Rishabh Pant have lost the first two games of the 5-match series against South Africa.

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Team India’s start to the home series against South Africa has been a torrid one, with the hosts losing the first two games. A third consecutive defeat would see them lose the series. Captain Rishabh Pant and coach Rahul Dravid have their task cut out ahead of a must-win game in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh on Tuesday.

While the batting clicked in the opening game, the second game in Cuttack saw the batters unable to deliver. What also hasn’t helped is the fact that Yuzvendra Chahal, who was in brilliant form in the IPL just before this series has been expensive. Along with Chahal, left-arm spinner Axar Patel too has been expensive. The two spinners have leaked a lot of runs which has hurt the Indian cause quite bit.

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Change at the Top of the Order

Given that the third game is important in terms of keeping the series alive, India will need to address the problem at the opening slot. Ruturaj Gaikwad hasn’t looked his fluent self so far and that has slowed down the batters in the powerplay, which isn’t of course ideal. Shreyas Iyer too hasn’t been scoring too quickly, but has been solid around the big hitters like Ishan Kishan, Rishabh Pant, Dinesh Karthik and Hardik Pandya.

After the second game, Shreyas said that India would look to keep their attacking batting going, which means there will be a likely change at the top of the order. In terms of replacements, India have Deepak Hooda and Venkatesh Iyer on the bench. The left-hander also gives Pant a bowling option, which is likely to be needed as well given how South Africa have sorted themselves out against the spinners so far.

The second T20 also saw India send in Axar Patel ahead of the finisher Dinesh Karthik, which Shreyas defended as well after the game. It is unlikely that the team will look for unconventional ways again on Tuesday, especially with the series on the line.

Only One-Spinner?

Captain Pant wasn’t pleased with his spinners after the second defeat and said that they’d need to be more impactful going forward. Axar Patel bowled one over which costed the team 19 run while Chahal’s spell brought SA closer to the finish line by 49 runs.

Amongst the pacers, Bhuvneshwar Kumar was brilliant in Cuttack, and as was Avesh Khan, who though went wicketless in both games. Harshal Patel conceded plenty of runs in the first game but was on the money in the next.

Stopping the batters from getting away will understandably be high on the agenda, which could open the door for Arshdeep Singh, who is excellent at keeping things tight from his end. Considering the spinners have not been as effective, Pant could go the one-spinner way, bringing in Arshdeep for Axar. It is unlikely that Chahal will be dropped but even if he is, India still have the young Ravi Bishnoi to fall back on.

What About Umran Malik?

Fast tracked into the team after a pacey IPL this year, Umran Malik hasn’t got a look in so far in the series. However, with backs to the wall, Pant could ask the young pacer to tie up his laces and let fly with all his might.

That raw pace can trouble most batters is common knowledge, as is the fact that Umran can crank up the speed quite a bit. However, his lines and lengths have often not been up to the mark, which resulted in batters scoring quite a few runs of him during the IPL.

With the South African batters in good form and some of them having played the IPL too, there will be a sense of familiarity in Umran’s case. India’s pacers have not misfired particularly so far in the couple of games against SA, which could be bad news in terms of selection for Umran.

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Possible Playing XI: Ishan Kishan, Venkatesh Iyer, Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant, Hardik Pandya, Dinesh Karthik, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Harshal Patel, Avesh Khan, Yuzvendra Chahal, Arshdeep Singh.

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