CAPE TOWN - The Proteas’ World Cup planning has started in earnest. Only 17 One-Day Internationals remain before Faf du Plessis' team get the 12th quadrennial cricket carnival underway against hosts England, and Du Plessis wants no stone unturned during the build-up period.
After a “few lessons were learnt” during the Test series in Sri Lanka, the Proteas bounced back to win three consecutive ODI's to close out the series with two matches still remaining. Although Du Plessis was forced to return home with his right arm in a sling due to a shoulder injury that will keep him on the sidelines for six-to-eight weeks, the skipper is really “excited” about what is brewing within the Proteas camp.
“There has been a lot of emphasis on the way we play and how we want to play. The vision myself and Gibbo (coach Ottis Gibson) have is all about how we are going to win the World Cup. I think you can see the guys are playing an exciting brand of cricket. There are few young faces playing fearless cricket. To beat Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka three times in a row is no mean feat,” Du Plessis said upon arrival at Cape Town International on Friday afternoon.
South Africa’s inexperienced middle-to-lower order may have fallen short in a rain-curtailed run-chase in the fourth ODI last Wednesday, but there has certainly been plenty on show in the previous three matches for Du Plessis and Gibson to build on.
Senior players Hashim Amla and JP Duminy have shown an encouraging return to form, but the emergence of Reeza Hendricks as a potential No 3 is a major positive especially after AB de Villiers’ retirement. Equally, Lungi Ngidi has shown the potential to fill Morne Morkel’s large boots with impressive new-ball displays, while chinaman bowler Tabraiz Shamsi has arguably done enough to be Imran Tahir’s back-up in England next year.
“There are still a few things that need to happen over the course of the next six months to a year. I see that as a great opportunity, especially for the younger guys. The experienced players don’t need more experience. It is about getting the younger guys more experience. Even if that means if there are one or two series where we rest the more senior players, just to get the younger players more experience,” Du Plessis said.
“I am really excited about our opening bowling combination: KG (Kagiso Rabada) and Lungi (Ngidi). That’s very nice for us. They strike and they take wickets. There are some nice young batters coming through, which is putting pressure on the more experienced batters. Obviously when AB retired, that forced us to change a few things which is why I moved to No 4. We’re just playing around with one or two things to see what is our best combination.”
Du Plessis has not closed the door on old-hands such as Vernon Philander and Dale Steyn returning for the World Cup either, saying “anyone can still put their name in the hat”, but it is clear that the Proteas management are providing opportunities for the next generation. The promotion of wicket-keeper Quinton de Kock to stand-in captain in Du Plessis’s absence is a case in point, although the skipper stressed that does necessarily mean the wicketkeeper/batsman is being groomed to be his successor.
Great series win against Sri Lanka going up 3-0. Special debut for @reezahendricks scoring a 💯 on debut. Excited about what lies ahead ... 🇿🇦🏆— Faf Du Plessis (@faf1307) August 5, 2018
"We felt that when Graeme (Smith) left there was no real opportunities for young leaders in the team to get one or two occasions where they could captain without being the full-time captain," Du Plessis explained. "You can use that opportunity to learn. There are two or three young guys in the team who have some leadership capabilities. With guys like Quinton it's more about developing their personalities and character.
“Someone like Quinton will grow a lot just by getting extra responsibility. It doesn't mean that he will be captain in the future or he won't, we just see an opportunity for him to grow as a player."
The Proteas close off their Sri Lankan tour with the fifth and final ODI on Sunday in Colombo before a one-off T20I on Tuesday.