Faf du Plessis says the Proteas are trying to improve their mental approach in the build up to the World Cup. Photo: REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

PAARL - There is a theory in South African cricket that when Faf du Plessis is at the helm of the Proteas, they simply play better. This is not a slight on the stand-in captains’ pedigree, but the Proteas are indeed a different beast with Du Plessis on the field.

Well, the skipper is back and will walk out to toss the coin in the third and final ODI against Zimbabwe at Boland Park on Saturday. Du Plessis has fully recovered from a shoulder injury that saw him return early from the Sri Lanka tour in August and which ruled the 34-year-old out of the first two ODI’s here against South Africa’s northern neighbours.

“Mentally and physically I am feeling fresh. Feeling like a youngster in the team again. I am really pumped for the season,” Du Plessis told the media contingent at Boland Park. “I am feeling really good. I was probably ready to play from the first game, but we thought lets give it some more time to get some strength work done and to work on my throwing. I probably won’t have a cannon (arm) to start off, but batting is fine and I probably need to be a bit smarter in terms of throwing myself around in the field.”

Although the Proteas have managed to close out the series in Du Plessis’s absence prior to this last ODI, the home team have not been performing entirely at optimum levels. There are a myriad reasons for this, ranging from the poor standard of pitches used in Kimberley and Bloemfontein for the first two matches and the rotation of players within the Proteas squad, but Du Plessis has still seen enough to be optimistic about the World Cup (taking place in close on eight months time), particularly as he remained close to the squad throughout to keep a close eye on proceedings.

“I thought it was really important to be around the team. It is a very important time for us to assess where we going with certain players. And also the way we want to play,” he said. “We are trying to evolve our game a little bit. Not in terms of going gung-ho and slogging out there, but it just that mental approach of not fearing to get out. It is tricky when the wickets don’t allow for that. When the wickets are like that, it is more suited to going ‘old school’ in terms of batting deep. Our whole mindset is not in the current, but looking ahead.

“It has been quite tough to judge. I was impressed with the way Heinrich Klaasen played in that first game. He showed signs of what we want from him. Aiden (Markram) is looking really good, we just need him to push on and get a big score. It is too difficult to say where we're short because batting has been really difficult because of the wickets we have been playing on,” Du Plessis added.


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