Dharamshala:  Three T20 matches in the space of a week set the tone for South Africa’s longest away series. Three captains, who play all formats, have to sit together and ensure the squad’s endurance stands up to the challenges over 70 days in conditions not very consistent.

From the cooler chimes of Dharamshala this week to the colder weather of Delhi in December, the South Africans travel all over the country. So by the time the Test series ends on December 7, the visitors would have experienced India like never before.

Upfront, South Africa faces the Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led India in the white-ball formats before Virat Kohli takes over the charge in Tests.

Dhoni, back at the helm after a break from cricket, knows only too well the importance of winning early in a long series. Even though it is the shortest format of the game to start with, Dhoni is expected to inspire the team to strike early and strike hard.

More often than not, world cricket has seen that a wounded South Africa has not come back hard at the opposition.

And that’s why the results of the three-match T20 series assume significance. Of course, the scheduling of the T20 series ahead of the ODIs and the Tests was largely influenced by the fact that India plays host to the T20 World Cup next March-April.

Understandably these seriously competitive teams clash in the shortest format

for the first time on Indian soil and test their specialist performers along with the more seasoned ones.

Here in Dharamshala, where the firm pitch promises good bounce and ‘carry’, the batsmen and faster bowlers won’t have reasons to complain. But with spin increasingly playing a role in T20 off-spinner R. Ashwin and leg-spinner Imran Tahir can be expected to make their presence felt in no certain terms in the series.

Their economy rates are better than those of the faster bowlers, who boast of superior strike rates in the past two seasons in the format.

Thanks to the Indian Premier League, many South African cricketers are no longer alien to the conditions here. In fact, skipper Faf du Plessis will draw a lot from what he must have gathered as part of the Chennai Super Kings with teammates such as Dhoni, Suresh Raina and Ashwin — all part of the opposition.

The teams (from): India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, A. Rayudu, Stuart Binny, R. Ashwin, Axar Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, S. Arvind, Mohit Sharma, Amit Mishra and Harbhajan Singh.

South Africa: Faf du Plessis (captain), A.B. de Villiers, Quinton de Kock, Hashim Amla, Jean-Paul Duminy, David Miller, Albie Morkel, Farhaan Behardien, Eddie Leie, Imran Tahir, Marchant de Lange, Chris Morris, Kagiso Rabada, Kyle Abbott and Khaya Zondo.

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