BLOEMFONTEIN – How hard have these two Tests against Bangladesh been for the South African players?
They had to work much harder in Potchefstroom for their success in the first Test. Those conditions were in fact better suited to the tourists.
Here, there’s been slightly more pace and bounce in the surface, but nothing alarming that it should unsettle Bangladesh.
However, Mushfiqur Rahim’s side have been dismal.
It’s made for a comfortable start to what will surely be a strenuous summer for the Proteas, something Kagiso Rabada acknowledged at the end of another day in which the home side was dominant.
“You can’t compare a first-class game to an international game, but it feels like one in terms of there isn’t a crowd, it feels very peaceful, very quiet when you’re playing cricket,” he said.
The crowd has been poor. There are a number of factors, not least the absence of some of the country’s star players, the quality of the opposition, while the nearby Macufe Festival has been a more attractive option than seeing the Tigers fold.
Still, as Rabada pointed out, South Africa can’t afford to take Bangladesh lightly. “We prepared very well and we executed our plans very well. They have some good players, and we made sure not to give them any space.”
With the exception of the opening combination and Temba Bavuma’s inclusion in the No 4 spot there isn’t lot of experimenting going on from the Proteas. Aiden Markram’s call-up is very much part of a long-term strategy to stabilise the top of the order, while Bavuma has a chance to lock down a primary position in the batting order.
The selectors have been forced into digging deep into the country’s bowling resources owing to a load of injuries and in doing so they have drawn value from these two Tests.
“Quinny and I were saying that all the guys we played against at school are in the team now, they are coming up. Getting them involved now is good.
“They are being exposed to international cricket, it gets much tougher than Bangladesh of course. But you can’t take any game lightly. It will get harder from here, this is not it, it is not it,” Rabada reiterated.
That is certainly the case. India and Australia who tour year later this season will provide that sterner examination and Rabada and the selectors will hope he will be accompanied by some more experienced campaigners for those series.
In their absence he has had to step up and fulfil the role of senior player, one he’s happy to do, saying the responsibility is no different from when he started his senior international career two years ago.
“That responsibility has always been there. There are expectations and pressure, no one is Rambo, we are all human,” said Rabada.
“You have to find ways to cope with it, the guys who have been in it the longest have found ways to cope. Sometimes it can get bigger and you have to find a new way to deal with it. You grow as a person as well, when things don’t go your way.”
In the meanwhile, they players that are here are gradually getting accustomed to how new coach Ottis Gibson operates.
“He is a very stern character, but at the same time he’s lenient, he doesn’t beat around the bush. He cracks jokes with the guys. He brings his own dynamic, something that as South Africans we are not particularly used to but we enjoy what he brings to the table.”