Standard Bank Proteas captain, Faf du Plessis, admits the team selection for the first Sunfoil Test match against India starting at PPC Newlands on Friday is the toughest of his tenure as captain. This is the first time Du Plessis has had all capable resources available to him since his appointment two seasons ago, with a fully fit pace arsenal and the return of AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn making this the strongest squad yet.
He says the final playing XI will be picked according to a combination that will be the most effective in the Newlands conditions.
“ This selection is the hardest that we are going to have to make, it is tough,” he admitted on the eve of the match at Newlands. “ There are so many combinations that we can look at but it is a nice headache to have. Yes it is a possibility (playing four seamers) but we are still talking about what will be our strongest XI.
“ All angles that you look at when picking this team are hard,” he explained. “ We will make the decision that we believe is the best specifically for Newlands. With the make-up of our squad, with so many different options, you can almost look at picking a different team for each different venue.”
This series could be the last time the majority of the senior players in the squad will play India at home, and serves as motivation to ‘settle the score’ after the away thrashing in 2015. Although a series win won’t be enough for the Proteas to topple India at the top of the ICC Test rankings, a contest between the No.1 and No.2 ranked teams in the world is set to provide high-quality entertainment.
“ It’s good that we can have some importance to this series, big series are the reason we play,” Du Plessis said. “We don’t have an Ashes so it’s good to see that the South Africa versus India series (Freedom Series) can start to grow to that profile. It’s 22 of some of the highest class players in the world who will be bashing it out over the next four weeks, it is exciting.
“ I don’t know when the next Test series against India is but I assume it is quite a while away,” he said. “ It is probably three years away so if you look at it from that perspective it is the last time that this group (senior players) will play against India. There is no better way of doing it than playing a series in South Africa. We were disappointed the last time we went there, we have a score to settle, so we are very excited for this series.”
Du Plessis has made a full recovery from the respective back and shoulder injuries that have kept him side-lined since October, and feels fresh and motivated to lead the team in the important series opener.
“ I sent the Ferrari in to the panel beaters,” he joked. “ First it was the back then I had the shoulder operation. It was frustrating at times, everything happened a little bit slower than I thought it would. I was told six weeks but it took longer, we are at 11 weeks and I feel like I am now ready to play.
“ I’m extremely hungry to play again,” he added. “ I would have liked to play against Zimbabwe to get some batting in but the batting feels really good so hopefully I can continue from last season.”