Cape Town: India Vs South Africa 2018 is almost here. After getting trained in the afternoon for two consecutive days, Faf du Plessis and company trained in the morning on Thursday as they geared up for the opening Test between India and South Africa at the Newlands Stadium in Cape Town from Friday.
It was more about keeping it light for the South African boys as they started with a football session to warm-up and having had a good game, they took to fielding drills, even as du Plessis worked with the physio, doing a bit of stretching and checking how his back is holding up, having missed the one-off Test against Zimbabwe.
After the fielding drills, the boys took to the nets and the bowlers were given some rest as they have a job at hand starting Friday. The net session saw the batsmen use the net bowlers and the bowling machine as the likes of Dean Elgar also took some throw-downs along with Hashim Amla.
Interestingly, all-rounder Chris Morris was seen having a long session with bat in hand. If that is any indication to go by, the all-rounder could well be a part of the playing XI, providing back-up to the likes of Kagiso Rabada, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel.
Dale Steyn is no longer the first-choice pacer that he used to be and it could well be a case of him having to make way for the younger brigade. Even though the rest of the bowlers had an off-day of sorts, Keshav Maharaj had a long session next to the match-wicket as Rabada later joined him, bowling off a shortened run-up.
Speaking to the media on the eve of the game, du Plessis said he didn’t look at Virat Kohli as an individual and it was about playing against India.
“I see South Africa opposite India, I don’t see a conflict between us. Virat doesn’t get more time than any of the other batsmen. He is a very good player. His stats don’t lie. I am not going to tell you what the plans are. We are hoping we can put some pressure on him. If we can keep him quiet, we have a much better chance,” he said.
While captains get irritated talking about the wicket, du Plessis said he is enjoying it. “I enjoy talking about the pitch. I like the fact that there is some sort of preference that we can try to get an advantage (from). I think the ground staff has done an impressive job with the heat. The wicket looks good, like it’s going to be a good cricket wicket. Nothing extreme. It looks like it’s going to be exactly what we wanted.
“You rock up and have to make decisions on the day. Some players don’t even examine the pitch because there’s so much information that can go on in your head which is undesired. Obviously for a captain it’s important that you have all that information ready because you want to make the right decisions,” he said.
Sides have not travelled well in recent times and the skipper said: “I think India was extreme conditions. We found that very challenging. England was testing as well but we think that came down to personnel – we lost 2 very precious members of our bowling attack. If you lose one or two of Morkel, Philander, Rabada or Steyn, it’s a very difficult to replace those because with 5 day cricket you need regular skill. But in general there is a trend where teams are struggling away from home and we are very proud of our record away from home.”
The South Africans have one of the best teams in present and du Plessis said it would be tough picking the playing XI.
“This selection is probably one of the hardest that we are going to have to make. There are just so many combinations you can look at. It’s a nice headache to have. It’s likelihood, mainly upon the Highveld (to play four seamers), but we’re still talking about what could be our strongest XI. I would like to give you a bit of insight into it but not quite yet.
“All angles that you look at with picking this team is a very hard decision. I think with the makeup of our squad now we have so many different options you can look at picking a different team for different venues. That’s our thinking. We have an idea of what we think will be the right team for this venue, and then we’ll probably change it up again once we go up north,” he smiled.
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Commenting on his own fitness, du Plessis said: “It was disappointing at times because all happened slower than I assumed it would. It’s 11 weeks now and I just feel now like I’m ready to play. I’m extremely hungry to play again. I would have liked to play against Zimbabwe to get some batting in but the batting feels good and hopefully I can take off from here.”
Talking of Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers, du Plessis said: “What’s important with AB is that he is fresh and hungry to score big runs. He has had a good break. He feels mentally strong and he wants to put in big performances, so I think that’s half the battle already. When you have got a high-quality player like himself, if you get the mental side of things right, he can be a good asset. The similar with Hashim – he scored good runs in the last series.
Faf, the skipper feels a quick wicket would be perfect for the match and they desire to eliminate spin.
“In a perfect world, it will be a quick wicket that nibbles around a little. We also want to try and eliminate spin as much as possible. When we played Sri Lanka here last time it was a really good wicket. We don’t want a lot of seam movement because that brings Indian bowling attack into the game. We feel with our seam resources, on a wicket that has some pace and bounce, we can exploit some of those areas in their batting line,” he signed off.