Enoch Nkwe admits that the past two weeks have seen plenty of sleepless nights, but despite that, and a few other teething problems, he believes the Proteas will give a good account of themselves in India over the next two months.
Nkwe, the Proteas’ interim team director, along with his coaching staff and a small contingent of players, arrived in India early on Saturday morning for a tour that comprises three T20 Internationals and then three Test matches – the latter series representing South Africa’s first assignment in the ICC World Test Championship.
There is apprehension and a fair amount of pessimism around the Proteas currently.
The World Cup went badly, they lost a Test series at home to Sri Lanka, some legendary players have retired, and they haven’t won in their last eight Test matches in the sub-continent.
Nkwe, however, doesn’t want to concern himself with all that. He wants to learn from the World Cup experience and he is backing the competitive fire that he says is burning in the players, to cause an upset in India.
“There’s been a lot of cricket in the last year, so it’s been good for the guys to step away from the game for a month, to reconnect with family and friends,” said Nkwe on the eve of the team’s departure.
“You need that mental freshness, especially after what happened in the last couple of months. I can sense it too, since I’ve been connecting with them, that the guys are really looking forward to this tour.”
Nkwe is still to appoint a batting coach for the Test team, explaining that some details still needed to be resolved although he hinted at following the example of New Zealand, who appointed former Sri Lankan international Thilan Samaraweera as a consultant during their Test series against Sri Lanka, by relying on Indian expertise to assist the batsmen.
The Proteas batsmen have struggled in the sub-continent in the last four years.
Rain meant both Tests against Bangladesh were drawn in 2015, then they lost 3-0 to India later that year and last year they were spun out by the Sri Lankans in both Tests of a short series there.
The Proteas batsmen scored one century over those eight Tests.
“Most important is to have clarity about our approach and then back that 100% percent. We can’t be confused, if we attack, how do we attack? Guys understanding their own games will be important.
“The guys are hurting, the results, especially in the sub-continent, have not been healthy. There is a strong sense that guys want to turn it around.”
Nkwe said he is expecting the worst as far as conditions are concerned.
South Africa certainly got that in 2015 when, following their wins in the T20 and ODIs, they encountered some badly prepared surfaces, one of which for the third Test in Nagpur received a sanction from the ICC.
South Africa have never played a Test at any of the venues - Visakhapatnam, Pune and Ranchi - that are being used for this year’s Test series and there is a thought in some circles that given India’s strong fast bowling resources, led by the irrepressible Jasprit Bumrah, they may prepare surfaces which aren’t so overwhelmingly in favour of spinners.
“I’m not too sure what we’re going to get, they may prepare slightly better wickets, but we will prepare for the worst,” said wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock, who has played at those three venues in the IPL and will captain the T20 team.
“The last time we were there, we didn’t expect those sort of surfaces, this time around we have a head start. We’ll keep our eyes open and make sure we are a little bit better prepared than last time.”