Unchanged Test squad

2013-12-10 00:00

CRICKET South Africa’s CEO Haroon Lorgat announced an unchanged 15-man Protea Test squad for the upcoming two-Test series against India, in Pietermaritzburg yesterday.

After stuttering in the first Test against Pakistan in the UAE, Graeme Smith and his team bounced back in ruthless fashion to level the series and maintain their number one spot in the ICC Test rankings.

“Our aim is to keep that status in the two Tests against India and three against Australia next year,” said Lorgat. “Test cricket is what the game is about and is the format all cricketers want to play and be remembered for. The recent passing of Nelson Mandela has inspired the team to new heights and I am confident the team will deliver fitting performances to honour his legacy.”

Convenor of selectors Andrew Hudson said there was no reason to change a successful recipe and formula.

“The team came back strongly after a heavy defeat in the first Test against Pakistan in the UAE and played the type of cricket that has taken us to the top of the rankings. We see no reason to change or interfere with a machine that is working well.”

Proteas One-Day captain AB de Villiers, still basking in the glory of the feats of his charges in the 50-over game, was not taking India lightly in the longer version of the game and expected them to come out fighting in the Tests.

“Playing at home gives us confidence as we have the crowd support and know the wickets and conditions,” he said.

“However, that does not mean we won’t slip up. The venues — Wanderers and Kingsmead — are places where we have lost Test matches before and we must respect India. It’s important we start well. Our recent record shows we tend to struggle first up in a Test series, but having played two away Tests against Pakistan and performed strongly in the second, the players know what is expected.”

De Villiers also stressed the importance of maintaining the number one Test ranking, wanting the Proteas to go on and dominate Test cricket. “It’s an honour to be ranked number one. We have a huge following and want people to be proud of us,” he said. “We want to maintain that spot and go on to dominate Test cricket for a while to come, like the Australians did in the 90s.”

Fast bowler Morné Morkel, who has found some pace, accuracy and consistency this season, is a key player in the Tests as he becomes a major weapon in testing the Indian batsmen on the South African pitches. “I identified my problems and have worked on them off the field,” he said. “The best place to get your form back is on the field and I have kept it simple, trusting myself more and finding my areas. It’s a simple philosophy for me — off stump, bouncer. It works most of the time.”

Hashim Amla and Imran Tahir were also present at the announcement. It goes without saying how important Amla’s batting is at the top of the order, while Tahir’s selection would be decided on the type of wicket prepared.

Proteas coach Russel Domingo welcomed the inclusion of two specialist spinners in the squad. “I would like to play a spinner in the team but it depends on conditions. The option of Imran as an attacking spinner and Robin [Peterson] in the containing role does give us options,” he said. “Keeping the same squad shows consistency and our four-pronged pace attack is a key factor. I think we have put doubt in the Indian batsmen’s minds when it comes to pace, but that’s the way we play and we must use what we have to our advantage.”

TEST SERIES AGAINST INDIA

• December 18 to 22 — Wanderers, Johannesburg.

• December 26 to 30 — Kingsmead, Durban

PROTEAS TEST SQUAD v INDIA

Graeme Smith (Cobras, Capt), AB de Villiers (Titans, Vice-Capt), Hashim Amla (Cobras), JP Duminy (Cobras), Faf du Plessis (Titans), Dean Elgar (Knights), Imran Tahir (Lions), Jacques Kallis (Cobras), Rory Kleinveldt (Cobras), Morne Morkel (Titans), Alviro Petersen (Lions), Robin Peterson (Cobras), Vernon Philander (Cobras), Dale Steyn (Cobras), Thami Tsolekile (Lions).

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