Kanpur, October 10: Having been outplayed in the shortest format, there will be added pressure on captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni to perform and lead India from the front against a formidable South African unit in the five-match ODI cricket series that begins here tomorrow.
It's time for Dhoni to answer his critics as more and more questions are being raised against his captaincy at a juncture where heir apparent and Test captain Virat Kohli is waiting in the wings. He enters his 'litmus test' having lost the T20 series and an unexpected loss in Bangladesh in June, after which he went out of action for three months.
On the face of it, India appear to have a well-balanced side but it will have anything but easy against the South Africans, who are high on confidence after an emphatic T20 series win. The tourists could not have asked for a better start to their long and arduous tour that culminates in December.
One can expect a few changes in the Indian team set-up though it is more or less the same squad that featured in T20s.
Umesh Yadav returns to the side to provide a much needed zing in the pace attack while batting all-rounder Gurkeerat Singh Mann would be waiting with bated breath to make his India debut after a string of stellar performances at the A and domestic level.
Dhoni is not the same 'finisher' that he used to be and will be eager to make the most of his promotion at number 4, a position where he is expected to bat after coming out at the same batting position in Bangladesh.
While Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan are likely to open, Ajinkya Rahane can find himself playing in the middle-order again replacing Ambati Rayudu, who was out for 0 in the two T20s.
Dhoni wanted to give time in the middle to benched players like Rahane, Stuart Binny and Amit Mishra in the final T20 but a washout at Eden Gardens robbed them of some match practice ahead of the ODIs.
Rohit, who struck a delightful ton in a losing cause at Dharamsala, would want to carry on in the same vein and his opening partner Dhawan must be eyeing a bagful of runs after two failures in the T20s.
Going by his lofty standards, Kohli too has not been as prolific as he would like to be and the challenge of taking on tough opponents like the Proteas is all that he might need to stamp his class once again.