Johannesburg: Having already sealed the series in Centurion, one would expect Faf du Plessis and his boys to take it easy and maybe try a few options in the third Test against India at the Wanderers in Johannesburg, especially with the series against Australia around the corner. But the skipper has made it clear that series whitewash is on the team’s mind.
“Just playing against India, you don’t get the opportunity a lot to be in a position of strength where we can beat them 3-0. Consistency is something we want to have as much as possible. Leading into the Australia series we want to go into it with that momentum we have been gathering over the last two games. Australia have been playing some really good cricket so by no means is anyone in the team thinking this is an opportunity to take our foot off the gas. We are really motivated to get a 3-0 win." du Plessis said in the pre-match press conference.
The South African batting has been the key to their success and the Protea skipper said that it will be the key in the third Test match.
“India are a proud team that wouldn’t want to go down 3-0 so we’re expecting once again a good challenge from them. For us as a team, it’s pretty simple. Just be doing the things that we’ve been doing right through the series and do it well. Whether it’s batting in partnerships, getting those partnerships together. As I said after the second Test, the difference between us and India is there’s more batters contributing to that partnership"
“So that’s going to be once again very much a key factor in conditions like that. As a batter, if you do get in, you try and string together a nice partnership. Both teams have been taking 20 wickets, and I assume that that will happen again. We’ve got a strong bowling attack on conditions that will suit them. The onus will be on the partnerships in the batting department. " he added.
The intent very much evident at the training on the eve of the game. Having trained in the afternoon on Monday, the Proteas were the first to train at the Wanderers on Tuesday and it started with the team coming together at the wicket and having a look at the pitch.
After all the controversy in Centurion, the boys wanted to have a look at the pitch and have a chat with curator Buthelezi who told CricketNext that the Proteas were happy with the wicket and it would have pace and bounce, just how the home team likes. In fact, he went on to add that Virat Kohli and boys were also happy and gave him a thumbs up after looking at the wicket.
“We’ve moved on now to Wanderers which looks more like the conditions we’re used to. But once again, we haven’t asked for anything that’s over the top, we’ve just asked for a wicket that’s got good pace and bounce. And it looks like hopefully we’ll get that. " du Plessis said, talking about the pitch.
India has performed well at the Wandrers and have never lost there, talking about it du Plessis said,
“They’ve played some good cricket here. The last Test match we played against India here was a fantastic Test match. Their bowing is good. They’ve come this time around with a very good seam attack and if you have that, you will be able to compete. We have got a fantastic seam attack as well so it will be the battle between those two. For me, it will be about keeping their batsmen under pressure. It’s been a pretty quiet series for most of them, and if we can keep doing that we will change that stat."
Coming back to the training, the boys went on to play a game of one-touch football after checking the pitch. AB de Villiers was seen being quite vocal at the game as it showed that the boys were really chilled out and having a good time.
After the game came the fielding drills and that was followed by an easy nets session. While the likes of du Plessis, Hashim Amla, Dean Elgar and Quinton de Kock batted at the outdoor net facility, there were others who trained next to the centre wickets with the South African pacers going through the grind.
Keshav Maharaj was seen bowling at the outdoor nets while interestingly, du Plessis was focused on working on his game against the spinners. The cool breeze and the overcast conditions further helped the Proteas as they got a relief from the scorching sun.
du Plessis said that the team is still undecided about the playing XI, with all rounder Andile Phehlukwayo also among the scheme of things which will mean that Maharaj might miss out,
“It’s an option. It was an option in Centurion as well. The ball doesn’t spin there regularly as well and then we find that it was the opposite! We just have to make sure we keep options open. The wicket looks like it should be a normal Wanderers wicket, but even tomorrow morning, just see what the pitch looks like and if there is the same amount of grass on it. Kesh is an extremely talented spinner and we are very lucky to have him. So if we do think of leaving of him out, you have to be 100% sure that you want to leave him out."
“Between Andile and Theunis. Whether you go for an allrounder to give you that option from a batting and bowling point of view or generally what you can do is to play seven batters and four seamers. That’s the three combinations we are talking about from a selection point of view. " said du Plessis.
du Plessis also talked about the constant chopping and changing which the Indian team have been guilty and the South African said it was indeed a surprising stat,
“That was surprising actually, for me. I didn’t know that stat. When you don’t follow a team closely you don’t really have an eye on it all the time. But I read something that they’ve changed their team every single time (34 Tests) and that’s remarkable. I don’t see how we will ever be able to do that. We try to have a bit of consistency, string together a team. It’s obviously worked for India in India. In terms of the opposition, it doesn’t make a difference. You plan for everyone, prepare for everyone and whoever plays, it’s not like it surprises us. "
With IPL auction set to take place in the weekend, du Plessis warned that it should not be a distraction for his team but its only human to think about it.
“Well we don’t have our phones, so it’s difficult to check. There will be distractions, that is normal, it’s human. The IPL plays a big part in all of our lives. For the management and myself, it’s important to make sure we keep the focus and the energy driving towards the Test match. And at the end of the day’s play, if we want to talk about the auction a little bit, we can do that but to make sure that the next day, when it’s Test match time again, we are switched on and focused." the skipper said.