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Team doctor Mohammed Moosagee is confident Proteas Test vice-captain AB de Villiers will be able to play a full part on the forthcoming three-Test tour of Australia.
The Proteas leave for Down Under tomorrow with an injury cloud hanging over their wicket-keeper De Villiers. The Proteas limited-overs captain has played no part in the Titans’ Champions League T20 campaign after suffering a recurrence of a chronic back injury upon his return from the World T20 in Sri Lanka at the beginning of the month.
The Titans were hopeful that De Villiers would be available for at least the knockout stages, but it was reported yesterday that the 28-year-old failed a fitness test ahead of the semifinal against the Sydney Sixers at Centurion tomorrow.
Moosagee, though, is not concerned with the latest development, citing the fact that De Villiers has not yet completed the mandatory three-week break that was instructed by Cricket South Africa.
“We are not too alarmed that AB won’t be able to play on Saturday,” Moosagee said. “He is definitely not in doubt for the Australian tour. It’s not a new injury, but one that surfaced two years ago. It does require monitoring, although the concern is more long term than immediate. “When his workload increases, it flares up. He will be able to do both duties – bat and keep wicket in Australia.”
It has long been mooted for De Villiers to take over the gloves, even before Mark Boucher’s horrific eye injury in England mid-year that hastened his international retirement.
However, that was more along the lines of limited-overs cricket, where De Villiers replaced Boucher two years ago already in the one-day and T20 teams.
The extra burden, especially in Test cricket, showed in England where De Villiers, despite averaging 40.25 compared to his career average of 48.25, failed to register a single half-century over the course of the three-match series.
The Proteas do have the option of specialist wicket-keeper Thami Tsolekile in reserve, with the Highveld Lions gloveman following up his tour to England with another trip to Australia. Coach Gary Kirsten may be loath to explore this option just yet, especially with De Villiers performing both duties, it allows South Africa the luxury of playing JP Duminy at No 7 in the batting line-up.
Duminy had a hugely successful tour of England, where he averaged 67.50, but more importantly shepherded the lower-order through some pressure-filled situations.
He was particularly adept in his role in the thrilling final Test at Lord’s, where his 72- and 54-run partnerships with Vernon Philander in the two innings played a pivotal role in South Africa sealing the match, series and ICC Test Championship mace handed to the World’s No 1-ranked Test nation.
It seems it’s only South Africa’s leadership core that is struggling with injury niggles. Test captain Graeme Smith, who was not selected for the World T20 on the subcontinent, has not played any cricket since the England tour back in July.
Smith underwent an ankle operation in the interim, although it was expected that he would at least get some first-class action with the Cape Cobras before tomorrow’s departure.
“Graeme too should be fine. His operation went really well and he regularly sees a specialist down in Cape Town who reports back to us. We are not worried about either Graeme or AB, and we expect both them to be ready for the first tour next week,” Moosagee added.
South Africa open their tour with a three-day match against Australia A in Sydney, starting November 2, before moving on to the first Test at the Gabba on November 9.
It will be the first time the Proteas are playing a Test in Brisbane since their return to international cricket in 1991 after spending 27 years in isolation due to apartheid.
AB’s Test stats:
AB’s statistics a Test wicket-keeper
Matches: 6, Runs: 273, Highest score: 52*, Average: 30.33
AB’s statistics purely as a Test batsman
Matches: 71, Runs: 5345, Highest score: 278*, Average: 50.42