JOHANNESBURG – Perhaps it’s just his ebullient nature, but AB de Villiers believes the Proteas One-Day International side is on the right track regarding their preparations ahead of the World Cup.
“I’m pretty positive,” De Villiers said at SuperSport Park on Thursday, where he started his first duties as captain of the Tshwane Spartans, the capital city’s representatives in Cricket SA’s new T20 competition, the Mzansi Super League.
De Villiers’ international retirement earlier this year threw the Proteas’ World Cup plans into some turmoil – with many feeling they still haven’t properly filled the hole he left.
However, De Villiers believes Faf du Plessis, Ottis Gibson and the selectors have created a deep enough well of players from which to draw candidates for next year’s tournament in England.
“They’re still chopping and changing in the batting department, but you look around at the guys who are there, and they are all match-winners.
“The bowling unit seems to be in order to do really special things at the World Cup next year,” said De Villiers, who captained South Africa at the last World Cup Down Under, where they came up short in dramatic fashion in a semi-final against New Zealand.
De Villiers gave his backing to Reeza Hendricks to continue in the No 3 spot. “He’s got good experience at domestic level, and he needs more experience at the highest level.
“When I’ve watched him play, he looks like he’s got time – he looks at home, so have a run with him.”
The most important element for all the batsmen, even trumping experience, said De Villiers, was form.
“I’d love to have experienced guys there, but they must be in form. I won’t say we got it wrong in the past, but I’d like to take in-form players to the World Cup who are confident with their games and will win you matches.”
The composition of the batting unit, especially the top six, is largely known, although the Proteas will be without two of their leading players for the trip to Australia – Hashim Amla and JP Duminy because of injury.
In Duminy’s case, he fits the duel tributes De Villiers believes are necessary for the World Cup perfectly: experience and good form.
And his absence for the three ODIs in Australia will be a significant blow for the tourists.
“The Aussie tour will be a really good test now. Even though they are not performing as well as they used to, it’s still not easy to go there and perform well. It will be a great test for us,” said De Villiers.
We are 85% close to our World Cup squad. Injuries will hamper preparation and will give opportunities but we have an idea of the roles we want to take to England -Du Plessis pic.twitter.com/S5yvws3Zf4
The Australians are indeed struggling at the moment, still dealing with the fallout from the sandpaper scandal in Cape Town earlier this year, and the loss thereafter of skipper Steve Smith, vice-captain David Warner and Cameron Bancroft to lengthy bans for their involvement in that affair.
They’ve been hammered by Pakistan in the UAE, losing a T20 International this week after being bowled out for 89.
Still, given the way the Test series unfolded here earlier this year, they will be out for some measure of revenge over the course of the three ODIs against the Proteas.
De Villiers feels Du Plessis and Gibson have followed the correct strategy in experimenting with personnel, as has been the case in the last year, and it should be continued Down Under.
“It’s the perfect time to explore different avenues,” he said.