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 under way against hosts England, and Du Plessis wants no stone unturned during the build-up.
After a “few lessons were learnt” during the Test series in Sri Lanka, the Proteas bounced back to win three consecutive ODIs to close out the series.
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.
“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 a few young faces playing fearless cricket,” Du Plessis said yesterday.
South Africa’s inexperienced middle- and lower-order may have fallen short in a rain-curtailed run-chase in the fourth ODI on 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 Morné 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.
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“The experienced players don’t need more experience. It is about getting the younger guys as much experience as possible – even if that means if there are one or two series where we rest the more senior players,” 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 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 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’ absence is a case in point, although the skipper stressed that does necessarily mean the wicket-keeper/batsman is being groomed to be his successor.
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“We felt that when Graeme (Smith) left, there were no real opportunities for young leaders 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 final ODI on Sunday in Colombo (11am SA time) before a one-off T20 International on Tuesday.