AB: Litmus test in Sri Lanka

2013-07-16 00:00

PROTEAS one-day and T20 captains, AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis, are confident their respective teams can produce a series win on the tour to Sri Lanka.

The Proteas, who arrived in Sri Lanka yesterday, play five one-dayers and three T20 clashes against an outfit known to produce the goods in the shorter formats of the game. With new coach Russel Domingo and many players with no experience of playing in Sri Lanka, De Villiers is looking ahead, seeing the tour as a platform ahead of the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

“There have been changes since the Champions Trophy in England. There’s no Gary Kirsten and Dale Steyn is being rested, which means a new vibe in the camp, and there is plenty of room to improve,” said De Villiers.

“As a team and a captain, much has been learnt since the loss to England in the Champions Trophy. We do not have a great record in Sri Lanka and the challenge is to improve on that.”

De Villiers admitted that the team had not practised together but, with the first ODI on Saturday, he believed there was still time to get his ducks in a row.

“We need to play better in the big moments where we have been found wanting. The key is to play better under pressure,” he said.

“While I am tired of the word consistency, we do need to improve and do the basics bloody well.”

Although young Lions batsman/keeper Quinton de Kock is in the squad, De Villiers confirmed he (De Villiers) would take the gloves and secure the number four batting slot, with the youngster there as back-up should something go wrong.

The skipper also outlined the importance of the senior players in the squad, those with experience of playing in Sri Lanka.

“It’s out of our control that we don’t play much in Sri Lanka, but conditions are similar to what we have played in India and Dubai, against Pakistan,” he said. “The decks are slower and take spin and while it’s a new experience for most of the players, I am not too worried. Players like myself and Morné [Morkel] will share invaluable advice with the team.”

Generally, De Villiers wanted to solidify the top order, saying there were places for the taking, with players needing to “take ownership and grab the opportunity”.

On the bowling front, he was impressed with the job done by the bowlers in the Champions Trophy after injuries to Steyn and Morkel. “With the resources we had, the bowlers stepped up to the mark,” he said. “JP Duminy was impressive as a spinning option, especially against India where he bowled in the power-play overs. He handles the pressure well and with Robin [Peterson] and Aaron [Phangiso], our spin options look solid.”

According to Du Plessis, De Villiers will open in the T20 matches, the world-class batsman being used to “create damage up front early on”.

As with the ODI squad, Du Plessis has a young team at his disposal but he recognises the tour as important preparation for next year’s T20 World Cup in Bangladesh.

“This will allow the players to get used to conditions ahead of next year,” he said. “We also have the consistency issue hanging over us and need to find the best balanced 11 players for the conditions.”

Du Plessis added that Imran Tahir, a surprise selection for the T20 squad, was a key player, a wicket taker who would get great assistance from the sub-continent pitches.

“Imran takes wickets and attacks. He gives me an option while I have a bowler like Phangiso at the other end offering control and restricting the runs,” he said. “Another plus is having David Wiese as a dangerous, hard-hitting No 7, coming in at crucial times and able to score quick, vital runs. This is a great time and opportunity for him to cement his place.”

Du Plessis said he was happy that three T20 matches were being played, saying more games meant more experience and situations for the young squad to deal with.

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