India look to salvage pride after series loss
Thursday, October 8, 2015
Start time 1900 local (1330GMT)
A show whose credits have already rolled has come to the biggest theatre in town and Eden Gardens could be forgiven for thinking it has received a raw deal. This is the only match the venue will host on South Africa's marathon tour, and its result will have no impact on the series.
The trophy is already in the visitors' hands and the sting was taken out of the contest when crowd trouble in the form of a bottle-throwing incident interrupted the second match in Cuttack. By then, however, South Africa's superiority was confirmed. They had skittled India out for their lowest T20 total at home and their second-lowest overall, and were well on their way to chasing down the target. At least, Kolkata can hope for a better performance from the home side.
India have a lot of work to do before the World T20 but MS Dhoni does not seem to be panicking. He understands his batsmen need to take more responsibility and his bowlers need to show more initiative. They should need no more motivation than salvaging pride, especially as South Africa will be eyeing a clean sweep. Although it would be easy for South Africa to switch off, in search of a few days break ahead of the ODIs, the appeal of a whitewash against India in India does not only speak to a rise up the rankings but is also the perfect preparation ahead of the World T20. Expect them to come out fighting.
(last five completed games, most recent first)
South Africa WWLWW
In the spotlight
India's middle-order has marshmallowed in both matches, first squandering a strong start in Dharamsala and then completely collapsing in Cuttack. In terms of reputation, they have names to produce better numbers and MS Dhoni and Ambati Rayudu are due a few more runs. The captain has looked uninspired so far and, given the impact he can have on his charges, if he ups his game, the rest may follow.
They were supposed to be flummoxed by conditions but South Africa's seamers have adapted well so far and will want to continue proving coach Russell Domingo - who said they would be the difference for the side - correct. Kagiso Rabada has managed to mix aggression with change of pace, Kyle Abbott has been accurate at the death and Albie Morkel's return to the highest level after 18 months in Cuttack was promising. Can they produce an encore in Kolkata?
India have reasons to make changes and the most anticipated one could be Amit Mishra's recall in place of either Axar Patel or Harbhajan Singh. Shikhar Dhawan's dual failure at the top could result in a shuffling of the batting line-up or the inclusion of Ajinkya Rahane.
India: (probable) 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shikhar Dhawan 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Suresh Raina, 5 MS Dhoni (capt, wk), 6 Ambati Rayudu, 7 R Ashwin, 8 & 9 Axar Patel/Amit Mishra/Harbhajan Singh, 10 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Mohit Sharma/S Aravind
With the series already won, South Africa could consider giving an opportunity to legspinner Eddie Leie and perhaps uncapped batsman Khaya Zondo. They will also ponder reintroducing Quinton de Kock into international cricket perhaps to give Hashim Amla some time off on a long tour and think of bringing back Marchant de Lange to bowl at a venue he knows well.
South Africa: (probable) 1 AB de Villiers (wk), 2 Hashim Amla, 3 Faf du Plessis (capt), 4 JP Duminy, 5 Khaya Zondo, 6 Farhaan Behardien, 7 Chris Morris, 8 Albie Morkel, 8 Marchant de Lange/Kagiso Rabada, 9 Kyle Abbott, 10, 11 Imran Tahir/Eddie Leie
Pitch and conditions
Both Sourav Ganguly, who is now joint secretary of the Cricket Association of Bengal, and Eden Gardens' groundsman Prabir Mukherjee have promised a batsman-friendly pitch, but, with India having conceded the series, a full house may not be on the cards. Still, at least 40,000 people could pile in to the iconic venue. Another hot, humid day is forecast with temperatures at 31 degrees, humidity over 80% and the possibility of some showers.
Stats and trivia
- South Africa have won two of their last three T20 series, both in the subcontinent. They drew the other won against New Zealand at home and have not lost a T20 series since defeat to Australia last November.
- India's total of 92 in their previous game is the lowest T20 total by a Test-playing nation this year. They have not won a bilateral T20 'series' since their one-off victory over Australia in October 2013.
- R Ashwin has dismissed AB de Villiers five times in T20s, the most by any bowler. Two of those dismissals have come in this series.
That's what has been the quality of this team. They have stuck to the players they believe can win the game and that's what we need to do as a team - reunite ourselves and give our best performance.
Harbhajan Singh believes India can bounce back after two successive defeats
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent