Barabati T20I: Scores To Settle For Team India Against SA; Can Hosts Silence ‘Killer Miller’?

Cuttack: Will ‘Killer Miller’ torment Team India again with his explosive strokeplay? Or will ‘Jharkhand dynamite’ Ishan Kishan take his power-hitting to the next level?

Can the wily Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Yuzvendra Chahal outperform the pace duo of Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje?

Will the rejuvenated Hardik Pandya, fresh from his IPL exploits, hit the Proteas hard with his all-round skills?

These are some of the questions Odisha’s cricket-loving public will seek answers to when they throng the Barabati Stadium to witness the second T20 International against South Africa here on Sunday.

Rishabh Pant, catapulted into the Team India hotseat after KL Rahul – designated captain for this series in the absence of rested Rohit Sharma – pulled out with an injury, will have his hands full as he and coach Rahul Dravid look to plot the downfall of a strong South African side.

In fact, India have more than a score to settle with the Proteas. The home team was dealt a rude jolt on Thursday night by David Miller and Rassie van der Dussen, who tore apart the Indian attack to chase down a seemingly tough target of 212. So, levelling the series will be topmost on Team India’s agenda.

Also on their minds will be the T20I encounter against South Africans at the Barabati in 2015. On a sultry October evening, MS Dhoni’s star-studded batting line-up was skittled out for 92 on a pitch with unpredictable pace and bounce.

South Africa saw off a fine spell by Ravichandran Ashwin and brushed aside a couple of stoppages — caused by a section of the crowd throwing plastic bottles to the ground – to get over the line and grab an unbeatable 2-0 lead in the three-match series.

There will surely be several spectators at the Barabati on Sunday who would have been present at the stadium on that disappointing night almost seven years ago. Nothing will please them more than watching Team India avenge that dismal defeat.

It’s not often that India lose at home. In fact, the defeat in Delhi two days ago was their first setback in 13 T20 Internationals. But the Men in Blue are up against a side which is capable of winning the five-match series – unless the home team produces its A-game.

As many as 10 players in the current South African squad were part of the recently-concluded IPL and are used to hot and humid conditions they are facing now, besides knowing the strengths and weaknesses of the Indian players.

The IPL has hugely benefited Indian cricket too, throwing up talents — like Kishan, Ruturaj Gaekwad, Harshal Patel, Avesh Khan — who are ready to make a mark on the international stage. So much so that the absence of big guns like Rohit and Virat Kohli is unlikely to hurt them.

One man whose absence might be felt is Jasprit Bumrah. India’s numero uno fast bowler is as much of a threat in Tests as he is in the shortest format. Bumrah’s consistent line and length, as well as the yorkers, make it difficult for batsmen to score freely.

He could have been the perfect antidote for someone like Miller.

But for now, Bhuvi and Harshal will have to take up that responsibility.

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