AB De Villiers is back at the helm this week. He is also back at the same place, Paarl’s Boland Bank Park, where it all started for him 12 months ago. It was an easy opening day at the office for South Africa’s new one-day captain, and nothing suggests anything different this Saturday when the Proteas face New Zealand in the opening match of the three-match series.
He will be South Africa’s third leader this summer, following Test captain Graeme Smith and Faf du Plessis in the T20s. Both Du Plessis and Smith have done what was expected of them, and that was to win their respective series, leaving only De Villiers to follow suit.
However, the focus won’t be so much on the results De Villiers achieves, but rather the strategies he puts in place during this series. The Proteas one-day outfit is not the Test side, where everybody is comfortable with their roles within the greater gameplan. It is a side that is very much still in transition, with new players still figuring out where they fit in. In fact, there are four possible debutants (Rory Kleinveldt, Aaron Phangiso, Quinton de Kock and Farhaan Behardien) in the squad for the New Zealand series. At least the entire quartet have tasted international action in the recent T20 series, while Kleinveldt played in the final Test at St George’s Park too.
Hopefully we will get to see some of them in action to determine who is ready to head off to the Champions Trophy in England later this year. Those selections will largely depend on how they go now and next month against Pakistan.
The performances of Smith, Colin Ingram and Lonwabo Tsotsobe, will also be closely monitored, albeit for altogether different reasons. Smith remains a phenomenal force in Test cricket, and although he scored a century in his last one-day innings on home soil, the bulky left-hander needs to find that destructive form that made him such a force in limited-overs cricket previously.
I am aware that all the elbow injuries he has played with over the last few years have hampered his strokeplay, but now that he is fully healed, South Africa need their former captain to take charge at the top of the order again to ease the pressure on Hashim Amla.
Meanwhile, Ingram and Tsotsobe are back in the national frame after a period on the sidelines. Ingram’s absence has been the lengthier of the two and he will want to show, while Jacques Kallis enjoys a rest, that his brilliant start to his ODI career was no fluke. Likewise, Tsotsobe will want to put a mixed 2012 behind him. The tall left-arm swing-bowler went from the heights of the World’s No 1 ODI bowler to being dropped from the Test squad and T20 starting line-up.
He has also struggled with injuries since moving to the Dolphins at the beginning of the season. It was, though, good to see Tsotsobe working hard with Proteas physio Brendon Jackson on a couple of intense fitness drills and also bowling to Allan Donald throughout the Test match at St George’s.
The Proteas’ World No 1 Test side took almost a decade to build. The one-day side doesn’t have such time, with the Champions Trophy on their doorstep. But if South Africa can build on the “processes” over the next two series on home soil, they will certainly be a step closer to breaking that ICC duck.
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@Swannyg66 (Graeme Swann): I’m much more honed at changing Wilf’s nappy, even though half the time it’s like trying to change a tyre on a moving car. – England off-spinner Graeme Swann becomes acquainted with the joys of fatherhood.
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