India will be back to square one when they host a reinvented South Africa in the second T20 International of the three-match series in Mohali, three days after the opening game of their home season was washed out in Dharamsala. India skipper Virat Kohli has already laid out his plans and expectations from the youngsters ahead of ICC T20 World Cup, to be played in Australia next year. Among all, 21-year-old Rishabh Pant will be under tremendous pressure to secure the wicket-keeper slot with no certainty over veteran MS Dhoni's future.
Before the 1st T20I in Dharamsala, Kohli said he did not expect to get a bagful of opportunities when he arrived on the international scene and believes the current crop of youngsters also need to make it count in the limited time they are going to get.
Not a single ball was bowled in the series-opener but there was enough happening on the sidelines and most of it was focused on Pant.
In a chat with the host broadcaster, the message for Pant from the team management was loud and clear: he can't repeatedly throw his wicket away and if he does "there will be a rap on the knuckles".
"We'll let him be but at times when you see a shot, like the first ball dismissal in Trinidad (during the tour of West Indies), if he repeats that, then he will be told. There will be a rap on the knuckles, talent or no talent," said head coach Ravi Shastri ahead of the series-opener.
With Kohli still very much open to having Dhoni back on board, pressure is mounting on Pant to do justice to his rich talent. Considering the circumstances, it was not a surprise that Pant had a hit in the nets right after the team flew to Mohali from Dharamsala on Monday.
Pressure will also be on leg-spinners Rahul Chahar and Washington Sundar, both of whom have been picked ahead of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal for the second straight series.
With 20-odd games to go before the World Cup, the Indian team wants to boost its batting which will require number 8, 9 and 10 to score runs on a regular basis, something which has never been India's strength.
Will a deep batting line-up compromise India's ability to wake wickets in the middle overs? Only time will tell.
It is also an important series for Shreyas Iyer and Manish Pandey, who have been brought back into the side to solidify the middle order.
The game will also be an opportunity for Shikhar Dhawan to play a substantial knock, having endured a lean tour of the West Indies by his standards. It a ground he is fond of, having scored a memorable 187 on his Test debut and more recently a 143 in the ODI against Australia in March this year, albeit in a losing cause.
On the other hand, it will be an uphill task for South Africa to beat this Indian side, which has been on a roll for most part. Time in the middle for a team in transition would have been valuable but rain robbed the Proteas of that opportunity in Dharamsala.
The Kagiso Rabada-led attack would have to bowl really well to contain the Indian batsmen especially skipper Kohli, who played one of his best knocks against Australia in March 2016, the last T20 played here, to take India to the World T20 semifinals.
Kohli, in a recent tweet, summed up what that knock of 82 off 51 balls meant to him as he struck the winning runs with Dhoni at the other end. Though his followers failed to read his words, Kohli will be aiming for an encore on Wednesday.
India: Virat Kohli (capt), Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Rishabh Pant (wk), Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Krunal Pandya, Washington Sundar, Rahul Chahar, Khaleel Ahmed, Deepak Chahar, Navdeep Saini.
South Africa: Quinton de Kock (capt/wk), Rassie van der Dussen (vc), Temba Bavuma, Junior Dala, Bjorn Fortuin, Beuran Hendricks, Reeza Hendricks, David Miller, Anrich Nortje, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, George Linde.
The match starts 7 pm IST.
(With PTI inputs)