Before the ODI series, South Africa is anxious and India is beautiful

Rarely has background noise consumed a series’ foreground as fully as it did in the days leading up to the three one-day internationals that South Africa and India will play from Thursday to Tuesday.

In addition, Jasprit Bumrah will miss six weeks of action due to a back ailment because of the upcoming men’s T20 World Cup, which means that everyone else in India’s World Cup team excluding reserve players won’t be playing. And that’s not all: South Africa engages in a rubber match against the backdrop of a stormy sky.

The visitors’ Test series in England, which ended last month in the wake of Elizabeth II’s passing, has been in free decline since the final two games.

Dean Elgar’s squad lost those contests in three and two days, and Temba Bavuma’s team was so thoroughly defeated by the Indians in the first T20I in Thiruvananthapuram last Wednesday that their defeat in the second T20I in Guwahati, even though it was by a lower margin, was hailed as a comeback. That rendered South Africa’s too little, too late victory, along with the third game on Tuesday in Indore, meaningless.

Although it was pointless, their supporters will nonetheless hope that this triumph will lead to more of the same in the ODI series. It must if South Africa’s dimming prospects of advancing directly to the ODI World Cup in India next year are not to vanish into obscurity. Only Zimbabwe and the Netherlands are now ahead of them in the 13-team Super League rankings, which will determine which eight teams will be given automatic entrance for the competition.

South Africa will have 129 points even if they win all eight of their remaining World Cup Super League games, including the three in India and the five at home against the Netherlands and England. With six games remaining, England is already in first place with 125 points. There are still six games and 120 points available for Australia, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. Sixth-placed India should not be concerned about the standings because they are the hosts.

South Africa will thus likely be vying for one of the three spots still open, which are presently held by New Zealand, Afghanistan, and West Indies, teams who have between 61 and 39 points more than Bavuma’s squad. West Indies have completed all 24 of their matches, whereas New Zealand still has nine ODIs to play and Afghanistan has twelve to complete.

It will be difficult for South Africa to escape securing one of the two World Cup slots designated for the winners in a qualifier in Zimbabwe in June and July, regardless of which way that equation is skewed. That would be embarrassing for a squad that has participated in every World Cup since 1992.