DURBAN: South Africa and India will vie for the world number one ranking again when they meet in their six-match One-day International series, which starts at Kingsmead on Thursday.
The one-day games begin just five days after India retained their top ranking in Tests, although second-placed South Africa closed the points gap by winning the series 2-1.
South Africa are on top of the International Cricket Council ODI rankings by a slender one point from India. With the points adjusted after each match, there is the potential for the number one position to change from match to match.
But South African coach Ottis Gibson is less concerned about the rankings than the long-term goal of winning the 2019 Cricket World Cup in England.
South Africa picked a big squad of 15 for the first three games and Gibson said there was a possibility other players could be considered for the last three.
“We’re the number one team at the moment but that doesn’t mean a lot leading up to a World Cup,” said Gibson. “Winning isn’t the be-all and end-all at this stage. There is a fine line and we will try and ensure that whatever team we pick has an equal chance of winning but we have a goal and a vision leading up to the World Cup and we want to expose as many players as possible.”
Unlike the Tests, the One-day Internationals could be dominated by batsmen, with six of the world’s top ten one-day batsmen in action on pitches which, unlike the Tests, should favour aggressive stroke play.
Indian captain Virat Kohli heads the ICC batting list, closely followed by his South African friend and Indian Premier League team-mate A.B. de Villiers.
But de Villiers will miss the first three games because of a finger injury he suffered during the third Test.
Indian vice-captain Rohit Sharma and South Africans Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis and Hashim Amla are also in the top ten, while former Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and explosive opener Shikhar Dhawan are at 13 and 14 on the list.
India, meanwhile, will look to the recent example of England in Australia, where the tourists overturned a Test series defeat with an emphatic one-day triumph.
India, too, have a big squad, with only eight of nine of their 17 players having played in the Test series. Nine of the South Africans played in the Tests.
SOUTH AFRICA: Faf du Plessis (captain), Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock, J.P. Duminy, Imran Tahir, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Lungi Ngidi, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Khaya Zondo.
INDIA: Virat Kohli (captain), Rohit Sharma (vice-captain), Jasprit Bumrah, Yuzvendra Chahal, Shikhar Dhawan, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Shreyas Iyer, Kedar Jadhav, Dinesh Karthik, Kuldeep Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Axar Patel, Ajinkya Rahane, Shardul Thakur.