Johannesburg - The Proteas have the chance to regain their status as the top-ranked Test nation in their upcoming tour of Sri Lanka, but newly-appointed captain Hashim Amla says it will not be his side's main concern.
“Playing two Tests, I am quite happy about it. Sri Lanka is a tough place to tour,” Amla said in Johannesburg, ahead of the team's departure.
“From a rankings perspective, we have dropped to number two, but that is not at the forefront of our objectives. We would love to be there (number one) as soon as possible but with the kind of new make-up team we have, it's important to find a winning formula first and things will fall into place later.”
South Africa would play two Tests against Sri Lanka, and a series win would propel them back into the number one spot. Australia currently occupy the top spot, but only play Test cricket again in October against Pakistan in Dubai.
A two-match Test series was not ideal and, in conditions better-suited to the Sri Lankans, the South Africans would have to be cautious in their approach.
South Africa had an undeniably poor record in Sri Lanka, only managing two wins from 16 One-Day Internationals (ODI). In Tests, the Proteas had won two matches from 10 outings. Sri Lanka also happened to be the country where South Africa last lost a series away from home.
Amla said he relished the chance to play the three-match ODI series ahead of the Tests before having to concentrate on his new role as Test captain.
“Although I have had a few weeks to give the captaincy a little bit more thought, nothing much has changed,” Amla said.
“I think a lot will change once the series starts, but up until then, my focus mentally is on the one-day series. Fortunately, I was in the UK playing county cricket in preparation for this tour, but in my mind I have been thinking about the ODIs and hopefully we can make amends. The captaincy will come at a later stage.”
ODI skipper AB de Villiers said the Sri Lankans on their home turf would be difficult to beat in the limited-overs contest.
“They are a very dangerous shorter-version team, all-round really, but specifically in T20s and ODIs. They've been performing very well in the last five years,” De Villiers said.
“They won a T20 World Cup and they've done really well in all their ODIs and world cups in the past.”
He said the South African ODI side had gained in experience since being defeated 4-1 by Sri Lanka a year ago and would be more competitive this time around.
“We get another bite of the cherry and the guys are really hungry. We're very confident we can do something special in Sri Lanka.”
Asked what role Imran Tahir would play, De Villiers said the spinner would be key to the Proteas' success.
“I would like see Imran get some game time and confidence going in the ODI arena.
“In the past, he's done really well for us. He had a wonderful 2011 World Cup in similar conditions. He's an attacking bowler, and a big part of our team.”