Following India’s impressive win at Chennai a couple of days ago, the teams will now go into the fifth and final ODI at the Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai on Sunday with everything to play for. India will have the momentum having registered a comprehensive triumph at Chepauk, but the way the series has ebbed and flowed, they would definitely not be favourites. There has been a trend in the series with the teams batting first winning all the games. As such, the toss will be crucial, and both India and South Africa will be keen to take first strike.
India will be buoyed to a great extent by the return to form of Virat Kohli. He did not look in great touch during the half-century at Rajkot on a tough pitch. But, the innings definitely aided his confidence as he went out to bat at Chennai. Kohli is a big match player, and would be looking forward to make an impact in the decider as well. The form of Ajinkya Rahane will also be pleasing for India although he hasn’t been getting big scores. Even more significant is the fact that Suresh Raina finally got among the runs at Chennai.
The three-spinner theory has worked for India so far, and there is no reason why that should change. Harbhajan Singh has made great use of the opportunity, which came out of the blue following the injury to Ravichandran Ashwin. He has got good support from Amit Mishra, who looked nervous in the wake of the off-field troubles he is facing, but still managed to put in a decent effort at Chennai. Axar Patel has also chipped in nicely so far. After the match-turning effort at Indore, he has continued his good form.
Although India would be wary of changing their winning combination, the form of Shikhar Dhawan may force them to make some changes in the batting order. If at all, Ambati Rayudu is chosen ahead of Dhawan for the must-win match, Rahane might again have to move up the order. But, considering how dangerous Dhawan can be, there is a decent chance that India may stick with him. There is also an outside chance that Sreenath Aravind may play in place of Mohit Sharma. The medium pacer, like Umesh Yadav earlier in the series, has failed to make much of an impression.
South Africa badly missed Morne Morkel and JP Duminy at Chennai. While Duminy is out of the series, there is not a high possibility of Morkel playing as well, at Mumbai. In such a scenario, South Africa would hope Dale Steyn rises to the occasion. The spearhead hasn’t been at his best yet, but can still make the difference that would matter the most. They would also seek runs from Hashim Amla, who is going through a lean patch in one-dayers. The lower order batting is a worry for South Africa, with Duminy out. Yet again, they would be looking for something special from their ever-in-form skipper AB de Villiers.
--By A Cricket Analyst