Having suffered a series-sweep at the hands of New Zealand, Team India would look to make amends when they take on a confident South African outfit in the first ODI of the three-match series at the HPCA Stadium on Thursday.
India and South Africa have had contrasting fortunes in their most recent ODI series. While the Proteas swept Australia aside in the three-match ODI series at home which was their first win in seven series across formats since the 2019 World Cup, India were beaten by the same margin in their three ODIs against the Kane Williamson-led Kiwi side.
The presence of Pandya along with a fit-again senior opener Shikhar Dhawan (shoulder dislocation) and seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar (sports hernia surgery) makes India favourite on paper against a South African side that comprises of seasoned campaigners like Quinton d Kock, Faf du Plessis and David Miller in their ranks.
The three players automatically pick themselves in the playing XI while Manish Pandey might just get a longer run at No 6 now that Kedar Jadhav has finally been dropped from the squad.
In the absence of Rohit Sharma, who is yet to recover from a calf injury, Dhawan's return would lend valuable experience to the Indian top-order, which badly missed both the openers in New Zealand. Dhawan had dislocated his shoulder during the final ODI against Australia at home and missed the New Zealand series.
Bhuvneshwar's return will give India good depth during the slog overs where Shardul THakur had seemed completely misfit.
Mohammed Shami has been rested for the series after getting a blow on his shoulder in the second Test in New Zealand.
Ravindra Jadeja is expected to be the lone spinning option on a seamer-friendly Dharamsala track unless team management feels the urge to include Kuldeep Yadav in the team.
South Africa, on the other hand, are coming into the tour brimming with confidence after whitewashing Australia in the three-ODI series.