DURBAN – The Proteas arrived in Durban in terrific spirits this week, even without the services of star batsman AB de Villiers.
The mercurial No 4 has been ruled out of the first three one-dayers against India, thanks to a finger injury he sustained in the third Test.
De Villiers will not be replaced in the squad, which will likely mean long-serving star JP Duminy taking on the role of playmaker in the side.
Since retiring from Test cricket, he has found a new lease of life at the Cape Cobras. Having been a keen observer of the Test series, where ball held sway over bat, Duminy said he anticipated a lot more runs to come forth in the one-day series.
“I think it’s going to be more batting-friendly. They are going to be high-scoring games across the country, which will bring the teams together.
“The key fundamentals for me in one-day cricket are partnerships with ball and bat,” he pointed out.
South Africa are the top-ranked side in 50-over cricket, but India are on their coat-tails.
With the confidence that they have got from a rousing finish in the five-day format, it is anticipated that the series will be very close.
“The team who gets that right will have the best chance of victory. It’s going to be a well-fought series, and close. It’s going to be interesting,” Duminy enthused, before praising the quality of the Indians.
“They are a phenomenal team. You have seen over the years that they have managed to compete in all conditions around the world.
“You don’t expect anything less from them in South African conditions. They have some new faces, a few young players, but with a lot of talent,” Duminy surveyed.
Having played in the Indian Premier League (IPL) for a decade, the all-rounder is well aware of what the visitors’ young stars can do.
The likes of Jasprit Bumrah contributed fully in the Test series, and Duminy is bracing himself for an equally close run once the first one-day international starts in Durban on Thursday.
“You are going to find that in white-ball cricket, we will be closer competition. Even though we won the first two Test matches, India competed.
“That is what you want to see from high-profile teams. India are the No 1-ranked Test nation in the world, you expect nothing less from them. It’s going to be a highly competitive series both in the ODIs and T20s,” Duminy said of the rest of the Indian tour to these shores.
Though there are six matches in the 50-over series, it all happens very quickly.
After Durban, the teams head off to Centurion on Sunday, and then down to Cape Town next Wednesday.
By the time De Villiers’ anticipated return in the pink-day ODI next Saturday, half the series would have disappeared. It is essential, then, for both sides to hit the ground running.
Great training session today feeling good 😎😅 pic.twitter.com/vCdhGI5l6w
“The key for us is to start well,” Duminy agreed.
“If we have a good game here at Kingsmead, we can gain confidence moving forward. It will be different with six ODIs this time around. You have to win four matches to guarantee the series,” he noted.
South Africa have included the likes of Dolphins skipper Khaya Zondo and Durban-born Lungi Ngidi in their squad, to add to an already strong KZN flavour in the group.
Unsurprisingly, the sold-out signs went up at Kingsmead weeks ago.
India are a popular team wherever they go, but even more so to a city with the highest concentration of Indians outside Asia.
Durban expects, and they will look to Virat Kohli and company to push South Africa all the way when the one-day series bursts into life tomorrow afternoon.
Faf du Plessis (captain), Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock, JP Duminy, Imran Tahir, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Morné Morkel, Chris Morris, Lungi Ngidi, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Khaya Zondo.