ODI series preview: South Africa v West Indies

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The ODI series between hosts South Africa and the visiting West Indies could fall in the middle of the previous two series in terms of balance, with the Proteas winning the Tests and the Windies the T20s.

The Proteas are by far the stronger side on paper, with their rested senior players, from Amla to De Villiers to Steyn returning, while the Windies are without a number of key players ahead of the World Cup.

The hosts are just one person short of their World Cup squad, with Morne van Wyk keeping wicket in the place of Quinton de Kock in this series. Van Wyk scored a century in the T20s, and will hope to keep that form going and book a ticket to Oz.

The return of their two best batsmen in De Villiers and Amla, not to mention JP Duminy, will be a huge boost, while Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander will add some teeth to an attack that struggled in their absence.

There are a few players that will be very eager to show they are worthy of their places, namely Farhaan Behardien, Imran Tahir and Wayne Parnell. The three were unpopular choices for the World Cup, and will need to put in valuable turns to change perceptions.

The Windies have not beaten the Proteas in an ODI in 13 encounters, going back to 2007, and this series might not be the place to break that streak. They are without Kemar Roach, the Bravo brothers, spinner Sunil Narine, and Kieron Pollard.

The latter and Dwayne Bravo's absence are big points of contention, as they're not in the World Cup squad either. Chris Gayle, who has become a bit of a one-man show here, was apoplectic with rage that the WICB did not call them up.

So will the Windies, with Jason Holder as the new captain, be able to focus on this set of five matches, let go of the drama with the selectors, and prove that they're more than shortest format one-trick ponies?

Key Men

For the hosts, AB de Villiers returns from his period of rest and will want to fire from the start. He is the top-ranked ODI batsman in the world, and Adam Gilchrist recently called him the 'most valuable cricketer' on the planet.

The clear choice here is Chris Gayle. When he played in the T20s, the Windies won. When he didn't, they didn't. His runs at the top of the order are vital in a chase, because the Caribbean troops are partial to a collapse.

Last Five Head-To-Head Results

2013 Champions Trophy: Match tied in Cardiff
2011 World Cup: South Africa won by seven wickets in Delhi
2010 Fifth ODI: South Africa won by one wicket in Port of Spain
2010 Fourth ODI: South Africa won by seven wickets in Roseau
2010 Third ODI: South Africa won by 67 runs in Roseau

Squads

South Africa: AB de Villiers (capt), Hashim Amla, Kyle Abbott, Farhaan Behardien, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Aaron Phangiso, Vernon Philander, Rilee Rossouw, Dale Steyn, Morne van Wyk

West Indies: Jason Holder (capt), Sulieman Benn, Carlos Brathwaite, Jonathan Carter, Sheldon Cottrell, Narsingh Deonarine, Chris Gayle, Leon Johnson, Denesh Ramdin, Andre Russell, Darren Sammy, Marlon Samuels, Lendl Simmons, Dwayne Smith, Jerome Taylor

Fixtures

First ODI: 16 January in Durban
Second ODI: 18 January in Johannesburg
Third ODI: 21 January in East London
Fourth ODI: 25 January in Port Elizabeth
Fifth ODI: 28 January in Centurion

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