India’s first Test against South Africa in Cape Town is just two days away but the home team is on a sticky wicket regarding their playing XI. South Africa have to decide their team with veteran pace bowler Dale Steyn not sure of participating in the Cape Town Test as he is still recovering from injury. The Proteas coach Ottis Gibson said on Friday that Steyn may play the first Test but nothing is confirmed.
“Dale Steyn is fit again. But I don’t know just yet whether we will see him this week. We have to try and pick the best team for the conditions and it is clearly a selection headache, but it is a good headache to have all the best players back and available to play,” Gibson said.
Steyn has been out of the Test team for more than a year but is back in contention after his shoulder surgery. Gibson said that they may play Steyn but have to see the bowling attack. Newlands wicket is expected to be seamer friendly but, according to Gibson, Steyn can only get a look-in if they decide to go in with an extra bowler.
“We don’t know just yet whether we will play him in the first Test but, depending on the selection, he might well play,” Gibson said. “I don’t think that if we were to pick a three-man seam attack plus a spinner we would want to put him in, in case something happens and he leaves the team vulnerable if he can’t finish the game,” Gibson added.
Steyn, five wickets shy of becoming South Africa’s leading wicket-taker, needs to be in full shape and South Africa will not like his breaking down in the middle of the game as he did against England in late 2015 and Australia in 2016.
“I’m not saying that will happen, but you don’t want to take that risk with the first Test. We have to look at the best combination to try and win the game and he will certainly come into the discussion but it depends on the formation of the team we put on the field.”
The South Africa coach also said that his team asked for a quick wicket and that will be given for the first Test. He added that bowlers still need to be on the top of the game to take wickets.
“With some grass on the wicket, bowlers sometimes tend to get a bit carried away. You still have to put the ball in the right area. However the wicket looks, you still have to play well on it. We will be playing the best team in the world, so we have to bring our A-game,” he said.
South Africa boost with one of the most lethal pace attacks in the world but Gibson went on to say that this is a world-class bowling attack.
“This is a world-class bowling attack and we’ve got to come up with the best combination to win this match and then think about the next one. But certainly this attack, if all those guys are able to take the field then this will be up there with the best ones,” he added.
After India, South Africa will host Australia and Gibson admitted that results in the two series will give a fair idea of where his team stands in Test cricket and what they need to do to reclaim top rank in Test cricket.
“In one-day cricket, I don’t worry too much about rankings because it’s built around a four-year cycle of World Cup cricket,” the coach said. “You can be number one in the world and you don’t win the World Cup. It doesn’t matter where you are once you go to the World Cup. In Test cricket it’s different. You play a series against the best teams in the world and then the prize at the end of it is to reach the pinnacle and be called the best team in the world – even if it is just for a series or a week.
“The objective for this team is to try and get to No. 1. We feel strongly that if we win the next two series that will put us somewhere very close to being number one again. The next two series will tell us or take us somewhere towards where we want to go. Everybody understands what we are trying to achieve,” the former West Indies pacer added.
(With PTI inputs)