DHARAMSALA: Hosts India and South Africa will have one eye on next year’s World T20 when they launch their three-match series in the picturesque hill town of Dharamsala on Friday.
Three T20 games on a single tour is a rarity in modern cricket, but both teams will welcome the change with the sixth edition of the World T20 due to be held in India in March-April next year.
South Africa, who will also play five ODIs and four Tests on the 10-week tour, are still looking for their first major limited-overs world title despite being top contenders every time.
MS Dhoni’s India won the inaugural World T20 in South Africa in 2007 and were runners-up to Sri Lanka in the last edition in Bangladesh in April, 2014 — having defeated the Proteas in the semi-final.
India may be regarded as the nerve centre of the shortest format due to the popularity of the Indian Premier League, but Dhoni’s men have played just three international matches in the shortest format since the World T20 final.
Team director Ravi Shastri said although India’s immediate focus was on winning the three-match series, it will also help to identify areas that need improvement. “The World T20 is still some time away, the important thing now is to win this series,” Shastri told AFP. “There is a lot of cricket to be played on this tour, but the T20s will give us a good idea of where we stand.”
South Africa’s T20 captain Faf du Plessis said the Indian tour will help his players prepare for the mega event. “I am excited for this tour because it’s in India, where we are going to play the World T20,” said du Plessis. “Everything that we do as a T20 side is geared towards that World T20 and there is no difference for this series.”
The tourists have rested pace spearheads Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel for the T20 series, but as many as 10 players in the current squad take part in the IPL and will know what to expect.
Meanwhile, Dhoni returns from a three-month break to take charge of the limited-overs teams, his first outing since a shock 2-1 one-day defeat at the hands of Bangladesh in Dhaka in June.
The second T20 international will be played in Cuttack on Monday and the third at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens next Thursday.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 2nd, 2015.
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