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Indore: For a 25-year-old Gurkeerat Singh looking to get a break there is a Harbhajan Singh, at 35, returning to the squad as a replacement for an injured R. Ashwin. Obviously the talent pool has little to offer in this department as India prepares to take on a vigorous South Africa in the second of the five-match One-Day International series here.

The team would benefit from Harbhajan’s spirit. A comeback was always on his mind as he traversed the domestic circuit in challenging conditions. The pitches in recent times have favoured seamers and the slow bowlers have had to strive more than ever to make an impact.

Harbhajan had to dig deep into his wealth of experience to impress the National selectors, who have youngsters like Deepak Hooda and Hardik Pandya in mind too for the shorter format.

The city of Indore has witnessed a chaotic run-up to the match to be held at the Indore Cricket Stadium on Wednesday with protests galore at the distribution of tickets to the general public and alleged threats of disruption too. The Indian camp has endured a muddle of a different kind with skipper M.S. Dhoni looking to tame his sustained failure as a match-winner while chalking out a batting order that suits the team.

Ajinkya Rahane, shunted to the bench and then hauled back to the No. 3 slot; Virat Kohli, in his poorest form of a seven-year-old career, pushed to the No. 4 position but expected to explode anytime soon; Dhoni, an uncertain figure at the crease, getting used to bat at No. 5 and Suresh Raina donning the role of carrying the lower half with him places the Indian campaign in an experimental mode.

In this season of trial and error, Dhoni emerges the central figure. There is a clamour to elevate Kohli as the ODI captain too but the move has not found favour with most because Dhoni continues to lend value to the team. Sunil Gavaskar rates him India’s No. 1 finisher. Which Dhoni certainly is. He is an innings away. His critics would do well to remember that 266 ODIs have brought him 8651 runs with the reputation to decimate any attack with an astonishing range of shots.

It is Kohli, a fantastic finisher too, who faces severe pressure due to an abysmal run with the bat and also because he exudes promise whenever he takes guard. It is a matter of time before he hurts the opposition with his awesome batting potential.

All he needs in this hour of distress is some luck. True, he has batted below par in his last 11 innings but Kohli is a talent that cannot be shackled for long. India can tackle its batting woes but the bowling needs to be sharpened. Gurkeerat can be an option for Stuart Binny in the matches to come.

He can bowl and provide depth at No. 7. Harbhajan, Amit Mishra and two seamers, depending upon the surface, can give Dhoni the force to halt the South Africans, who seem to be getting everything right. The form of A.B. de Villiers and Jean- Paul Duminy is vital to their campaign. And they have started on a positive note.

The teams (from):

India: M.S. Dhoni (capt., wk), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Ambati Rayudu, Suresh Raina, Stuart Binny, Gurkeerat Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Axar Patel, Mohit Sharma, Umesh Yadav, R. Ashwin and Amit Mishra.

South Africa: A.B. de Villiers (capt.), Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock (wk), Faf du Plessis, David Miller, Chris Morris, Kagiso Rabada, Khaya Zondo, Kyle Abbott, Farhaan Behardien, J-P. Duminy, Imran Tahir, Morne Morkel, Aaron Phangiso and Dale Steyn.

Match starts at 1-30 p.m


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Todays Epaper

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