POTCHEFSTROOM – Vernon Philander hopes to prove his fitness ahead of the second Test against Bangladesh by playing for the Cape Cobras in the second round of Sunfoil Series fixtures starting on Thursday.
Philander will undergo a fitness Test in Cape Town on Wednesday morning ahead of the Cobras’ match against the Warriors in Port Elizabeth, but declared on Tuesday morning that he was feeling “a lot stronger” after a back injury forced him to miss the final Test of the series against England last month.
His absence from that fourth Test led to some stinging criticism from skipper Faf du Plessis and former Proteas captain Graeme Smith about Philander’s fitness, but the all-rounder said on Tuesday that he and Du Plessis had held “constructive” discussions ahead of a busy summer for the Proteas.
“The rehab has been going really well and I’m feeling a lot stronger,” said Philander. “The plan is to be available for the second Test (that starts October 6 in Bloemfontein).”
Following the series loss to England, Du Plessis said Philander needed to improve his fitness so that he could get through a whole series and not just one or two matches.
In England, Philander played the first two Tests, picked up a viral infection in the third which hampered him badly and then missed the final match in Manchester, which upset his captain.
“Too many times the team has gasped ‘Vern could be injured again’. So he understands from a fitness point of view with important series coming up, Australia and India at home, he needs to be fit to get through all eight Tests,” Du Plessis said at the time.
A clear-the-air meeting has taken place subsequently and Philander, who’s played 46 Tests, is looking forward to the new season.
“It’s international sport, you’ll always find criticism... as long as it’s constructive, then I’m all for it. You’ve got to take it on the chin.
“Myself and Faf had a good chat afterwards, the way the two of us nailed down things was quite constructive at the end of the day. As long as you’re open and honest with each other, that’s the key thing.
“He made his view clear and obviously I made mine clear to him. As long as we understand each other, we’ve got a road to walk together.”
There are 10 Tests on the schedule for the Proteas and Philander, as Du Plessis also pointed out in England, is a critical component of the team given not just his bowling prowess, but his output with the bat, which has become increasingly important over the years.
For his part, Philander explained it was important to have some time to work on his fitness, which isn’t always possible given the amount of cricket played these days.
“It’s not about the amount of cricket we play. It’s that when we play and about when we have those rest periods and (so that we) put in the work, get stronger, stay fit, so we can stay on the park,” he remarked.