Will AB de Villiers' comeback change the complexion of the series? (Image courtesy: AFP and Getty)
Will AB de Villiers’ comeback change the complexion of the series? (Image courtesy: AFP and Getty)

India earned former South Africa skipper Graeme Smith’s praise with their superlative performance in the ongoing ODI series. India’s wrist spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav have accounted for 21 out of 27 South African wickets in three outings. There is no doubt that India have a chance to notch up their maiden bilateral series win in South Africa. Oh, wait! There is a certain bloke — South Africa’s biggest match-winner — coming back for the fourth ODI. And he is returning on the Pink Day, the time he enjoys a great run. The player is none other than AB de Villiers.

ABD on Pink Day…

The match holds significance in South Africa’s cricketing calendar. The ‘Pink ODI’ is played for the awareness of breast cancer and for the benefit of those suffering from the disease. To fan the fire, South Africa are yet to lose an encounter played on this day.

Not only that, de Villiers has a healthy average playing in pink clothing. The former skipper slammed a memorable 44-ball 149 against West Indies in 2015.

In India’s 2013-14 tour, they were first part of this Pink Day celebrations. On a wicket full that has pace and adequate bounce, South Africa posted 358 for 4 at Wanderers, Johannesburg. De Villiers was once again the chief tormentor with a 47-ball 77. India lost the match by a whopping 141-run margin.

If this is not all, de Villiers averages 54.06 in the format. He averages 51.80 versus India (43.45 at home).

Note: De Villiers averages over 50 versus 10 teams, including India.

Also, de Villiers will come in handy to tackle his RCB teammate Chahal.

India have few glitches amidst a smooth run

India have turned the tides emphatically after conceding an unassailable lead in the Test series. The overall tour has been more favourable for the tourists. They lead 4-2 after being 0-2 down at one stage. Nonetheless, let us look at some of the ‘factors’ against the tourists.

- Rohit Sharma’s scores in the present tour are 11, 10, 10, 47, 20, 15, 0. In addition, his ODI average in South Africa stands at 12.10 (lowest considering 10 matches or more).

- Hardik Pandya averages 17 with the bat, and remains wicketless in the series so far.

- Curious case of MS Dhoni.

Dhoni had a good run in the home and away series versus Sri Lanka. In addition, he had few notable scores against Australia in dire circumstances. Nonetheless, India are needlessly making a big issue in the runup to 2019 World Cup. Why isn’t Dhoni given a fixed batting slot? One can understand his declining strike-rate, but then why demote him after Pandya? He, for the same reason, found the going tough in the third ODI. Dhoni shouldn’t only be there for guiding Kohli, hitting the winning shot, affecting those super quick stumpings and mentoring the spinners. Dhoni has to bat at No. 5, and can be followed by big-hitters such as Kedar Jadhav and Pandya. This can prove to be a long-standing issue going by the team management’s ignorance.

STAT ALERT

- India have a 1-3 record versus South Africa at Wanderers. Their only win came in 2010-11 tour courtesy Munaf Patel’s heroics.

Shikhar Dhawan will become the 34th Indian cricketer to have played 100 ODIs.

- 88 runs needed by Dhoni (9,912) to become the 4th Indian — after Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, and Rahul Dravid — and 12th overall to 10,000-run mark. Of these, 174 runs have representing Asia XI.

Final say

South Africa, led by Aiden Markram, have clearly shown they are miles away from mastering spin. While hosts are on the back foot, they would hope for a roaring comeback from de Villiers. On the other hand, India start as favourties to win their maiden ODI series in the country. If at all de Villiers fails, India should march past the opposition once again tomorrow.

Squads

India

Virat Kohli (c), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Dinesh Karthik, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Axar Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Shardul Thakur

South Africa

Aiden Markram (c), Hashim Amla, JP Duminy, Imran Tahir, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Lungisani Ngidi, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Khayelihle Zondo, Farhaan Behardien, Heinrich Klaasen (wk), AB de Villiers.

Time: 4:30 PM IST.