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India vs South Africa Preview: Confident Proteas Look to Welcome Kohli & Company With Pace & Bounce at Cape Town

Baidurjo Bhose |Cricketnext | Updated: January 5, 2018, 8:47 AM IST
India vs South Africa Preview: Confident Proteas Look to Welcome Kohli & Company With Pace & Bounce at Cape Town

India's captain Virat Kohli(L) and South Africa's captain Faf du Plessis (R) pose with the 2018 Freedom Series trophy. (AFP Image)

Cape Town: Having trained in the afternoon on the last two days, Faf du Plessis and his boys trained in the morning on Thursday as they geared up for the opening Test between India and South Africa at the Newlands Stadium in Cape Town from Friday. After long sessions on the centre wicket on Tuesday and Wednesday, the boys took to the practice wickets adjacent to the ground on Thursday.

It was more about keeping it light for the South African boys as they started with a football session to warm-up and having had a good game, they took to fielding drills, even as du Plessis worked with the physio, doing a bit of stretching and checking how his back is holding up, having missed the one-off Test against Zimbabwe.

WhatsApp Image 2018-01-04 at 1.49.19 PM

After the fielding drills, the boys took to the nets and the bowlers were given some rest as they have a job at hand starting Friday. The net session saw the batsmen use the net bowlers and the bowling machine as the likes of Dean Elgar also took some throw-downs along with Hashim Amla.

Interestingly, all-rounder Chris Morris was seen having a long session with bat in hand. If that is any indication to go by, the all-rounder could well be a part of the playing XI, providing back-up to the likes of Kagiso Rabada, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel.

Dale Steyn is no longer the first-choice pacer that he used to be and it could well be a case of him having to make way for the younger brigade. Even though the rest of the bowlers had an off-day of sorts, Keshav Maharaj had a long session next to the match-wicket as Rabada later joined him, bowling off a shortened run-up.

Speaking to the media on the eve of the game, du Plessis said he didn't look at Virat Kohli as an individual and it was about playing against India.

"I see South Africa against India, I don’t see a rivalry between us. We don’t look at Virat. He doesn’t get more time than any of the other batters. He is a very good player. His stats don’t lie. I am not going to tell you what the plans are. We are hoping we can put some pressure on him. If we can keep him quiet, we have a much better chance," he said.

While captains get irritated talking about the wicket, du Plessis said he is enjoying it. "I enjoy talking about the pitch. I like the fact that there is some sort of preference that we can try to get an advantage (from). I think the groundsman has done a fantastic job with the heat. The wicket looks good, like it’s going to be a good cricket wicket. Nothing extreme. It looks like it’s going to be exactly what we wanted.

"You rock up and have to make decisions on the day. Some guys don’t even look at the pitch because there’s so much information that can go on in your head which is unnecessary. Obviously for a captain it’s important that you have all that information ready because you want to make the right decisions," he said.

Sides have not travelled well in recent times and the skipper said: "I think India was extreme conditions. We found that very challenging. England was challenging as well but I think that came down to personnel - we lost two very important members of our bowling attack. If you lose one or two of Rabada, Steyn, Morkel or Philander it’s a very difficult to replace those because with Test cricket you need consistent skill. But in general there is a trend where teams are struggling away from home and we are very proud of our record away from home."

The South Africans have one of the best teams in present and du Plessis said it would be tough picking the playing XI.

"This selection is probably one of the hardest that we are going to have to make. There are just so many combinations you can look at. It’s a nice headache to have. It’s a possibility, especially up on the Highveld (to play four seamers), but we’re still talking about what could be our strongest XI. I would like to give you a bit of insight into it but not quite yet.

"All angles that you look at with picking this team is a very hard decision. We will make the decision we believe is the best specifically for Newlands. I think with the make-up of our squad now we have so many different options you can look at picking a different team for different venues. That’s our thinking. We have an idea of what we think will be the right team for this venue, and then we’ll probably change it up again once we go up north," he smiled.

Commenting on his own fitness, du Plessis said: "It was frustrating at times because everything happened slower than I thought it would. It’s 11 weeks now and I just feel now like I’m ready to play. Obviously time at home is nice, and the good thing is I didn’t miss much cricket for South Africa. I’m extremely hungry to play again. I would have liked to play against Zimbabwe to get some batting in but the batting feels good and hopefully I can take off from here."

Talking of Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers, du Plessis said: "What’s important with AB is that he is fresh and hungry to score big runs. He has had a good break. He feels mentally strong and he wants to put in big performances, so I think that’s half the battle already. When you have got a high-quality player like himself, if you get the mental side of things right, he can be a good asset. The same with Hashim - he scored some good runs in previous series. I know Bangladesh’s attack was not as strong as India’s will be, but you can only score runs against what’s put in front of you and he was superb through that series. If you take that, he’s in really good form."

Du Plessis feels a quick wicket would be best for the game and they wish to eliminate spin.

"In a perfect world it will be a quick wicket that nips around a bit. We also want to try and eliminate spin as much as possible. When we played Sri Lanka here last time it was a really good wicket. You don’t want excessive seam movement because that brings both bowling attacks into the game. We feel with our seam resources, on a wicket that has some pace and bounce, we can exploit some of those areas in their batting line," he signed off.
First Published: January 5, 2018, 8:25 AM IST

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