Sharjah - AB de Villiers’s captaincy comes under the microscope as South Africa begin their long road to the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup campaign with a five-match One-Day International series against Pakistan, starting here on Wednesday.
The plan is to get the right combination as the ICC global event, to be staged in Australia and New Zealand, approaches. South Africa have never succeeded at the 50-over World Cup and with different players being tried out against various opponents, the selectors are hoping to get the right mix before going Down Under in 2015 for the biggest event on the international cricket stage.
De Villiers’s outfit bowed out of the ICC Champions Trophy in England at the semi-final stage before losing 4-1 in Sri Lanka, results which opened up a can of worms in so far as his captaincy and his tactical approach to one-day contests.
Now he faces another test in Pakistan on their own home patch. They seem to excel and utilise the conditions here better than most opposition and this will be one of the big worries for the South African captain.
Another factor that will be worrying De Villiers is that he will be without his spearhead Dale Steyn, who has returned home for a short rest, and opening batsman Hashim Amla, who has not returned to the UAE since the end of the first Test in Abu Dhabi.
Both are key components of the squad. Amla, who is the No 1 ranked batsman in the ICC ODI rankings, provides a solid base at the top of the batting order while Steyn, regarded as one of the best quick bowlers around, has always given the Proteas that little extra edge.
Minus these two stars, De VIlliers, who has new personnel in his squad, will be seeking answers in all departments from his players – particularly the batsmen and bowlers who were way below par in Sri Lanka.
“It’s a different format, but we’ll take a bit of confidence from the second Test win going into this series. It gives us a sense of feeling that we are getting used to the conditions in the UAE,” De VIlliers said.
“We have a different look as far as the ODI side is concerned even though we haven’t played in a long time. Admittedly we did not play well – especially in Sri Lanka – but we beat Pakistan in South Africa not too long ago. That’s a bit of confidence we take as we go into this series.”
De Villiers said there was little time for him and his squad to prepare for the tough five-match series, but added that the key would be to adapt quickly to the local conditions. He also acknowledges that the Test squad had a slow start to their series, and before they knew it, they were trailing 1-0.
“We didn’t have much time to prepare for this series. Now it’s up to us to be mentally prepared as best we can and hit the ground running,” he said.
“It’s important to adapt really quickly as possible and understand the conditions. We need to attack the Pakistan team in areas where they are not as strong. We are tactically working on that and hopefully we will get the right side on the park on the day which will give us the opportunity of going 1-0 up here.”
Colin Ingram has been put on standby for Amla and could get an opportunity of showing his worth, while Vernon Philander makes a return to the shorter format after a long break. Philander is an important cog now that Steyn is not around and his ability to bowl a good line and length could go a long way in instilling discipline in the likes of Lonwabo Tsotsobe, who was one of the quick bowlers to have a poor run in Sri Lanka.
South Africa: AB de Villiers (capt), Colin Ingram, Quinton de Kock, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir, Ryan McLaren, David Miller, Morné Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Robin Peterson, Vernon Philander, Graeme Smith, Lonwabo Tsotsobe.
Pakistan: Ahmed Shahzad, Nasir Jamshed, Mohammad Hafeez, Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), Asad Shafiq, Umar Akmal, Umar Amin, Sohaib Maqsood, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Shahid Afridi, Abdul Rehman, Saeed Ajmal, Mohammad Irfan, Junaid Khan, Wahab Riaz and Sohail Tanvir.
Start: 1pm (SA time)
Umpires: Richard Illingworth and Shozab Raza. TV: SS2, SSHD2
* Pakistan have never beaten South Africa in a bilateral ODI series.
* The last two series between these two teams have ended in 3-2 victories for the South Africans.
* South Africa have lost 10 of their 18 ODIs played in 2013.
* Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq is the leading ODI run-scorer this year with 961 runs at an average of 60.06.
* Misbah is yet to score a century in 128 ODIs.