The ODI series between South Africa and India is all set to commence. Both teams have the stars to watch, but at the same time, both teams have youngsters who have the abilities to steal the show…. 

After a gruelling Test series where the hosts edged through for a 2-1 win, the no.1 and no.2 side in the World are set to clash in a high profile ODI series of six matches. Interestingly, the rankings are inverted in ODIs with South Africa standing atop with 120 rating points while India are no.2 with one point behind.

While the focus is on grabbing the elusive series win, both teams will also want to widen their pool of players before the World Cup in England next year. This could mean that we might see a lot of rotation of players during the course of the series.

There are several fringe talents on either side, looking to make an impact and this series could be an ideal platform for them to stake their claims. Here is a look at five youngsters who might be keenly observed in the series.

Shreyas Iyer

The flamboyant Mumbaikar was on the fringes of being selected for more than a year and finally got his opportunities in late 2017. He impressed with back to back half-centuries against Sri Lanka at Mohali and Vishakhapatnam, showing good temperament mixed with the audacious shot selection.

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He has played only three ODIs in all but already seems to have answers for India’s no. 4 batting line-up conundrum. Iyer’s ability to read the bounce and pace of the pitch exceptionally well makes him a dangerous proposition on South African decks with true bounce. This series could be his breakthrough one.

Aiden Markram

The Test opener is slowly but steadily making himself an indispensable player for South Africa in Tests but ODIs are a different ball game. While his record in List A cricket is outstanding, Markram has struggled to squeeze into an ODI top order packed with talented batsmen.

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His lone ODI appearance came against Bangladesh where he made a 60 ball 66 walking in at no.4. With AB de Villiers ruled out of the first three games, Markram has a solid chance of making the top four and would be keen to establish his mark in the limited-overs setup as a middle-order batsman although it is as an opener that he shone at the Titans franchise.

Shardul Thakur

India aren’t short of good fast bowlers anymore and Shardul Thakur is latest in line. With a penchant of outswingers and ability to clock good pace, Thakur will enjoy these South African decks. He was in the mix for the ODIs against Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka but injury concerns saw Siddharth Kaul selected ahead of him at home in the next series.

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Thakur has just one wicket in the two ODIs he has played and went at an economy of 5.69. He might want to improve on his wicket-taking abilities here in South Africa once he gets a go. With India likely to play three fast bowlers and Hardik Pandya as seam bowling all-rounder, Thakur might have to bide his time since the three – Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammad Shami – are already accustomed to conditions here and might get first preference.

Khaya Zondo

A middle-order batsman with a calm head, Zondo was selected mainly because Temba Bavuma was out injured and also because Ottis Gibson wanted to widen his pool of talent before the showpiece event in England. Farhaan Behardien, who had an impressive Momentum One Day Cup, was dropped for Zondo since the former couldn’t quite grab his chances in the lower middle-order.

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Zondo is yet to make his debut but has been in the setup before when he travelled to India in 2015 as a back-up batsman but found himself sitting out for Dean Elgar who was flown in last minute as an injury replacement and played ahead of him. This created a huge ruckus back home with Zondo being a black African. While that tenure didn’t go quite well, Zondo will be keen to make his mark this time around.

Tabraiz Shamsi

The wily chinaman spinner is a favourite in T20 leagues around the globe but his game is built for One Day Internationals. A tricky wrist spinner with a slew of variations, Shamsi isn’t scared to dish out flight on the ball and make it do tricks in the air and off the pitch.

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With Imran Tahir ageing and expected to retire after the 2019 World Cup, Shamsi is vying for the lone spinner’s slot with Keshav Maharaj, Dane Piedt and Eddie Leie. Playing against the best players of spin, Shamsi will want to prove that he can beat them with his variations. It will be a huge test of skill for the chinaman spinner and with Tahir in the setup now, he can learn a lot under his guidance. How he fits into the XI remains to be seen although, at a venue like Durban which is sluggish, South Africa might ponder playing the two wrist spinners.

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