CAPE TOWN - It may be recalled the last time the Proteas returned from the subcontinent they were a broken bunch. Not only was it the start of their World No 1 Test status surrender, but their enviable decade-long away record was laid to rest in the red dust of Mohali, Nagpur and Delhi.
More importantly, though, their spirit was broken with Faf du Plessis even admitting the 3-0 thumping against India left “a few scars”. Much has transpired over the ensuing three years, however, with Du Plessis now the undisputed leader of the Proteas. The team is also on an all-time high after arguably the most successful home summer ever, with the Proteas recording series wins over Australia and India.
It is for this reason that Du Plessis heads back to the subcontinent - albeit Sri Lanka and not India - quietly confident that the Proteas can repeat their 2014 Test success despite the team set to once again face a trial by spin.“The last time we went to Sri Lanka, it was the first time we won the series over there (since 1993),” Du Plessis said.
"I am though expecting tough conditions going over. Sri Lanka will look at it on paper, and think we have a better side, so they will try and make conditions as dry as possible, and spin as much as possible. So, that will be similar to the conditions we faced in India. It will be a nice opportunity to test ourselves in tough conditions."
"I think there was lot of lessons learnt, technically for the batters, you almost have to go through something like that to pick up your game from scratch. Hopefully we have learnt some lessons. There are a few experienced players, and a few new guys travelling to Sri Lanka, so it is (a) nice opportunity for them to test themselves in conditions like that."
Too excited to sleep 😍😎 Sri Lanka Tour👿 pic.twitter.com/ekh21ohzdM
Du Plessis and his team will head to the “Pearl of the Orient” for the first time without two of their stalwarts. Master batsman AB de Villiers and fast bowler Morne Morkel both called time on their international careers after last summer’s successes, and have left considerable voids in both of their departments.
Fortunately for the Proteas they have fast bowler Dale Steyn on yet another comeback trail and who is most likely to slot straight into the Morkel vacancy. The composition of the batting unit, though, is not quite so straightforward with De Villiers virtually irreplaceable at No 4. With JP Duminy having retired, there is an opportunity for someone like Temba Bavuma to stake a permanent claim for arguably the most coveted position in the national team batting line-up.