South Africa skipper Faf du Plessis said that he doesn’t mind if his bowlers outshine the batsmen as long as they win the ongoing Test series against India. “Sitting here as a batsman, the first priority is to win games,” he said in a press conference prior to the second Test, “If we play in series where the ball takes the upper hand, so be it. As long as we are winning it is fine.”
Du Plessis admitted that they have demanded more pace and bounce in Centurion. “The information from the groundsmen is that the grass on the wicket has been burnt from the heat over the last week. It was very hot. We’ve asked for pace and bounce so hopefully, we will get that. It is the key thing,” he said, “If there was a bit of grass on it, it’s fine then we back ourselves. If it was a low-scoring game, we’d want to get 20 or 30 or 50 more. I expect a good cricket wicket and hopefully pace and bounce. We prepare bowling friendly conditions because we want to win Test matches.”
South Africa came out of the first Test with a 1-0 lead and a win in Centurion will be enough for them to seal the series. However, they do need to figure out who takes Dale Steyn’s place in the bowling department. Steyn, who was making a comeback to international cricket after more than a year out due to injury, could potentially be ruled out of the rest of this series due to an injury he sustained to the heel during India’s second innings. In the stable is local boy Lungi Ngidi awaiting his Test debut who is awaiting his Test debut but it is seasoned customer Chris Morris who is expected to take that slot.
“Right now I look at Morry (Morris) as a fourth seamer replacement,” said the South African captain, “If you pick four seamers, he can be in amongst them. Consistency-wise he has got a bit of work to do to be a third seamer. If you pick three seamers, he will consistently have to be on the money. Dale, Morne (Morkel), Vernon (Philander) and KG (Kagiso Rabada) are a step above in that regard. But if we play four seamers he is someone who gets talked about because he has pace and x-factor, and obviously he bats as well.”
22-year-old Kagiso Rabada recently became no.1 on the ICC Test bowler’s rankings. “KG (Rabada) is an incredible athlete – I think that’s his strongest attribute. He’s just such a strong bowler. He can bowl the whole day and he doesn’t get tired. He’s very fit, which is a great thing for a captain, because you know you can always throw the ball to him. I still believe his best is still to come. He is learning a lot as a bowler. With his body being so strong and the mind that he has on his shoulders, always looking to improve, the best is yet to come,” du Plessis said.
Du Plessis also was of the opinion that the Centurion wicket doesn’t have much for spinners. “Generally Centurion doesn’t spin that much, but there is a thick layer of ground grass on it, which is not something we’re used to seeing. So it’s an unknown. Hopefully it doesn’t turn. To get the conditions that we would like, the ball must spin as little as possible. To have pace anywhere in the world is an advantage. If you don’t have pace, your attack can get one-dimensional. I feel our attack has a lot of variety, so there is a huge X-factor to it,” he said.
Talking about South Africa’s settled batting line-up and AB de Villiers’ contribution, the skipper said, “One less batsman makes your responsibility on the top six a little bit more. I don’t mind that. Expectation (from AB) is the same as anyone in the team. His job is to score big runs and make an impact with the bat. I know he is very hungry to do well and a hungry AB usually means a big run-scoring AB, so hopefully over the next few months, we will get a lot of runs from him. Anyone who gets judged on being the best in the world, whether it is a bowler, batsman or team, I feel should get judged all around the world.”
Despite the fact that the Indian batting line up looked rather clueless in the face of the pitch and the South African pacers, Du Plessis is not underestimating his opposition. “India, at times, were really good in that first Test match,” he said, “That’s why I said it was one of the best Tests I’ve played in, because there were so many ups and downs for both teams. India was in the game for 90 per cent of the game, so it was a fantastic contest between two really strong teams. Their bowlers took 20 wickets, but the only part when we were a little bit better was we got more runs in the first innings. I expect another huge performance from them.”