A lot has changed in the Proteas setup in these few months and they come on the back of a series whitewash of Australia.
The last time South Africa were in India was less than six months ago. They were thumped in the Test series after a 1-1 T20I series and returned home humiliated and embarrassed by their shocking performance. Now, they are back for a three-match ODI series, one that can be termed as a continuation of the other two series for the simple fact that it's very close to each other.
A lot has changed in the Proteas setup in these few months. Enoch Nkwe, the stand-in head coach for that tour is now the assistant coach. Graeme Smith is the new Director of Cricket. Mark Boucher is the new head coach. Jacques Kallis is the new batting coach and Charl Langveldt the bowling coach. Faf du Plessis, their skipper on that Test tour, is now just a player with Quinton de Kock leading the side. The ODI team has seen as many as six debutants with one further player expected to debut this series.
A new-look side:
The fortunes of the Proteas Test and T20I sides hasn't dwindled too much but the ODI side is on the back of a whitewash of the Australian team in a recent series. The key takeaway for the South Africans was that their centurions were Janneman Malan and Heinrich Klaasen, both non-regulars in the ODI setup. That they swept the Aussies 3-0 despite Quinton de Kock's average series, Faf du Plessis' absence and Temba Bavuma's injury shows the Proteas are here to stay and strive.
The middle-order has a daunting look to it with the return of du Plessis. Heinrich Klaasen and Kyle Verreynne, who were in top form against the Aussies, will add more strength to the middle-order that also includes David Miller and JJ Smuts. Obviously, all of them may not fit in, but the good news for them is that a lot of these players are fine players of spin.
The all-rounder stock is also well beefed up with JJ Smuts, Andile Phehlukwayo and George Linde all capable of stepping up with the bat and the ball. For once, there are a couple of formidable spinning all-rounders in the side and we might see them make an impact in India.
A strong bowling line-up:
The bowling department - despite the glaring absence of Kagiso Rabada and Tabraiz Shamsi - is pretty well stocked as well. Lungi Ngidi is on the back of picking up the first five-fer by a South African in ODIs since October 2018. His death bowling and slower variations were a revelation in the Australian ODIs and could be more than handy in India on the sluggish wickets.
Complementing him is Anrich Nortje who had a good Test series against England followed by another good ODI series against Australia. With the consistent Lutho Sipamla, the exciting Beuran Hendricks and Keshav Maharaj also in the setup, the Proteas have a completely different vibe to their team as they land in India.
It must be remembered that they face India in a format where the hosts haven't been that good since the World Cup. India have lost five ODIs and won just six since the heartbreaking semi-finals in England. This South African ODI unit might just have the oomph to topple India at home. They did manage to do so the last time they played an ODI series in the country.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Barco Greeff