India, South Africa look to gain one-upmanship as international cricket comes to Surat

S Sudarshanan
New Update
India, South Africa look to gain one-upmanship as international cricket comes to Surat

Hilton Moreeng, Sune Luus, Harmanpreet Kaur and WV Raman at the pre-series press conference. © Cricket South Africa/ Twitter

Mithali Raj has retired from T20Is. When she debuted in international cricket, though, she was all of 16 years and 205 days (in 1999).

As India begins a post-Raj era in T20Is, a 15-year-old is making the right noises and looks poised to break into the playing XI for India against South Africa in the first T20I at the Lalbhai Contractor Stadium in Surat. Shafali Verma, the opening batter from Haryana, has broken down the door to the national side on the back of an incredible 2018-19 domestic season. If she steps on the field for the hosts on Tuesday (September 24), Shafali would be the second-youngest to don the national cap (in any format) and the youngest in T20Is for India. No wonder, captain Harmanpreet Kaur didn’t want to assign much responsibility on the youngster and has encouraged her to just 'play her game'.



“The message to Shafali is clear – that she should play her natural game. We haven’t assigned her any responsibilities,” said Kaur, when quizzed about the youngster. “It is only good for the team if she plays her attacking game and gives us the start we want.”

Both sides have left no stone unturned to prepare for the series. While the Indian team trained at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore, South Africa played a warm-up match against Board President’s XI on Sunday (September 22), where they trounced the opposition.

Ayabonga Khaka, making a comeback to international cricket, warmed up with a couple of wickets, while Sune Luus and Shabnim Ismail took three apiece. On the batting front, Lizelle Lee struck a fine 48-ball 65 with a perfect finishing act by the experienced Mignon du Preez (unbeaten 40 off 18 balls) that propelled the tourists to an unlikely 174.

Marizanne Kapp, arguably South Africa's most consistent bowler, misses out in T20Is. Quiz captain Luus about the same and she is quick to paint a picture that the team is well-equipped even in the senior bowler's absence. “We saw Ayabonga Khaka yesterday. She is ready and raring to go. Yes, she is making a comeback but she will lift the pressure off the others’ shoulders,” Luus said.

Given that it’s a new venue for international cricket, the South Africans would be pleased with their outing and would look to use that experience in the first game. India, on the other hand, will go into the match having never played at the venue before.

Although a bit of khaman-dhokla and fafda-jalebis would be on the menu for the players, for the viewers the meal seems to be a delicious one at the outset. Whether the hosts will boss in home conditions or whether South Africa make Surat their home away from home – only time will tell.


India: Harmanpreet Kaur (captain), Smriti Mandhana (vice-captain), Jemimah Rodrigues, Deepti Sharma, Taniya Bhatia (wicket-keeper), Poonam Yadav, Shikha Pandey, Arundhati Reddy, Pooja Vastrakar, Radha Yadav, Veda Krishnamurthy, Harleen Deol, Anuja Patil, Shafali Verma, Mansi Joshi

South Africa: Sune Luus (c), Anneke Bosch, Tasmin Brits, Nadine de Klerk, S Ismail, Sinola Jafta, Ayabonga Khaka, Lara Goodall, Lizelle Lee, Nonkululeko Mlaba, Tumi Sekhukhune, Nondumiso Shangase, Mignon du Preez, Laura Wolvaardt