26 February 2010
AHMEDABAD: The series as well as the number two spot in ICC rankings in their grasp, India would aim for a rare clean sweep while South Africa have nothing but pride to play for in their third and final One-dayer on Saturday.
The home team will be without more than half a dozen key players in the dead rubber, some missing from action from the start of the series and others -- including champion batsman Sachin Tendulkar -- skipping the tie.
Tendulkar, in particular, will be missed after his awe-inspiring and phenomenal knock of 200 not out at Gwalior that shattered the Proteas dreams of winning a One-day series in India for the first time ever.
The batting great has obtained a break to recharge his batteries for the upcoming Indian Premier League after becoming the first player in the nearly four-decade-old One-day game to make a double ton at the international level with his unbeaten innings which came off just 147 balls.
Tendulkar's absence, the back problem to Virender Sehwag and the wrist injury to Gautam Gambhir, have necessitated the inclusion of the uncapped Murali Vijay of Tamil Nadu to open the batting with his state-mate Dinesh Karthik.
Vijay, who has played four Tests in his fledgling career, thus gets a chance to show his worth in the 50-over format of the game by default at the Sardar Patel Gujarat Stadium in Motera.
The South African pace bowlers, especially Dale Steyn, who troubled Vijay in the Test series held earlier, would fancy their chance of making early inroads in the Indian line-up after the mauling they received from Tendulkar in the second match.
Karthik, who has opened in Tests, is going into the match with his confidence boosted with productive stints in the first two games, especially at Gwalior where he made 79 and got involved in a near-double century second wicket stand with Tendulkar.
The Indian middle order, in the absence of Tendulkar, Sehwag, Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh, is full of pep and vigour but is vastly inexperienced compared to the regular one and the Proteas could not get a better opportunity to scythe through it.
Youngsters Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, and Ravindra Jadeja have been entrusted with the responsibility to shore up the middle with in-form skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Yusuf Pathan.
The Indian bowling too is depleted in the absence of not only Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh, but also Praveen Kumar who is reportedly out because of a hamstring injury.
The team will also miss Sehwag as the extra slow bowling option to support Jadeja and Pathan, brightening the chances of either leg spinner Amit Mishra or uncapped off spinner Ravichandran Ashwin getting a look-in.
An enormous burden has been placed on Ashish Nehra and the inconsistent S Sreesanth to deliver the goods in the early overs and at death.
They are expected to have the backup of either Sudeep Tyagi, who has been traveling with the team without getting many chances to play, or Karnataka's young talent Abhimanyu Mithun.
While India have some deep holes to fill in their line up, the visitors have to show their ability to bounce back from the dead after the thrashing they received at Gwalior.
The Proteas batting has not fired in the two matches with skipper Jacques Kallis at Jaipur and A B de Villiers in Gwalior being the top scorers without getting much support from the rest.
Much was expected from Herschelle Gibbs at the top because of his familiarity with Indian pitches and conditions but his bat failed to boom in the first two ties and the visitors would be looking forward to a solid innings from this veteran.
Jean Paul Duminy has been the biggest flop on the entire tour with a string of one-digit scores to his credit that has weakened the middle order considerably. A final fling from this talented player would help the Proteas' bid for a consolation victory.
Duminy's off spin too has been pedestrian and this has added to the bowling woes of the South African team in containing the home team batsmen.
The absence of big guns Tendulkar and Sehwag must be a huge relief for pace spearheads Steyn and Wayne Parnell, especially the latter who did not have a clue about stopping the master batsman from executing his shots at will in the Gwalior tie.
The duo would certainly fancy its chances here with a new Indian opening pair taking strike.
India have a mixed bag of results at this ground, having won five and lost six - including the last three - of their encounters.
The home team's last victory came more than seven years ago, in November 2002 against the West Indies.
Curator Dhiraj Parsana has predicted that the wicket would not be a batting paradise like the ones at Jaipur and Gwalior and a score of 260-plus would be a good one to defend.
He also stated that dew fall has been quite heavy which could affect the team bowling second, but added that measures like sprinkling of chemicals on the outfield and usage of ropes to take away the moisture would be tried to reduce the impact.
India: MS Dhoni (Capt.), M Vijay, Dinesh Karthik, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Yusuf Pathan, Ravindra Jadeja, Sudeep Tyagi, S Sreesanth, R Ashwin, Amit Mishra, Abhimanyu Mithun and Ashish Nehra.
South Africa: Jacques Kallis (Capt.), Loots Bosman, Johan Botha, Hashim Amla, Mark Boucher, A B de Villiers, J P Duminy, Herschelle Gibbs, Charl Langeveldt, Albie Morkel, Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Alviro Petersen, Dale Steyn, Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Roelof van der Merwe.