India's first T20I against SA called off due to rain

A general view of the digital board displaying the message that play has been abanodoned due to rain at the first T20 cricket match between South Africa and India at Kingsmead stadium in Durban on Sunday. Photo: AFP/ Phill Magakoe

Durban: India's desire to start the process of finding an ideal combination for the T20 World Cup 2024 suffered a minor dent as their first match against South Africa was abandoned without a ball being bowled after persistent rain here on Sunday. In fact, even the toss did not take place.

Now, the 'Men in Blue' are left with just five T20Is two more against the Proteas and three games against Afghanistan at home in January ahead of next year's showpiece in the West Indies and the USA.

In that context, India would have liked to make a head start to their search for a perfect blend at Kingsmead but rain put paid to those hopes temporarily.

With the IPL 2024 preceding the T20 World Cup, the Indian think-tank will certainly bank on the league to identify the ideal 15 for the marquee event. India stand-in captain Suryakumar suggested as much.

"I feel there are limited T20s going forward, before the T20 World Cup. But then we play 14 league games in the IPL as well, Suryakumar had mentioned during his pre-match press meet on Saturday.

But then nothing really can supplant the confidence a player can accrue while performing well in international matches, and the weight of a good outing doubles if the touring destination is South Africa.

It also offers the management a more realistic yardstick about a player's ability.

The first-time visitors to the 'Rainbow Nation' such as Rinku Singh, Jitesh Sharma, Arshdeep Singh etc would have been eager to get that unique taste of cricket here and now they would have to wait till Tuesday for the second match at St George's Park at Gqeberha, formerly known as Port Elizabeth.

From a leadership perspective, Suryakumar has done a very fine job while stepping in for injured Hardik Pandya during the home T20I series against the Aussies. Suryakumar led from the front in India's 4-1 series victory.

The 33-year-old would have liked to make a winning start here against the Proteas to underline his credentials to give the bigwigs another name potentially to consider for the captain's role, if it ever comes to that.

It wasn't entirely amusing then to hear the Mumbai man talking about his comfort while shepherding a young side.

"From personal point of view, it (captaincy) is a big responsibility. I really enjoyed it in the last series (against Australia). I would love to do the same (winning the series) in the coming series in South Africa.

"But from a larger perspective, we'll see what comes ahead but for now let's focus on the series," he had said on Saturday.

The Durban T20I could also have handed India a chance to test their options for the sixth bowler slot, something that assumes importance as Pandya's fitness continues to be iffy.

They, perhaps, could have tried the part-time spin of Tilak Varma, who recently bowled a few overs for Hyderabad in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, and Yashasvi Jaiswal.

Suryakumar did not provide a definite answer to the sixth bowling conundrum, but said they have enough personnel in their ranks to fill in that role.

"It is not like we don't have a sixth bowling option. When the right time comes, you will see the sixth bowler or maybe the seventh or eighth (bowler)," he had said.

But for now, India will have to hit the meeting room and reinforce their plans ahead of the second match.

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