Faf du Plessis, who marshalled a defence of a relatively low 208-run target in the first Test against India to lead South Africa to a 72-run victory, wasn’t about to rest on the laurels of victory, stressing that India were a quality team and would grab their chances if South Africa relaxed.
Speaking on Friday (January 12), at the SuperSport Park in Centurion on the eve of the second Test, du Plessis reiterated that the match in Newlands in Cape Town was one of the best he had been involved in.
“India at times were really good in that first Test match,” said du Plessis. “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 were in the game for 90% of the game, so it was a fantastic contest between two really strong teams. They will have taken a lot of positives from that match, and they will feel they weren’t far off. Their bowlers took 20 wickets, 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. For us it’s about making sure we don’t take a step back and rely on a 1-0 lead. If you do that against a strong team like India they will pounce on you.”
Du Plesiss also stressed that his team would look to continue to be aggressive. “Myself and the team management’s view is to look for the positive option, the aggressive option and look to get an advantage over a team,” he said. “India is the same. We want to look for whatever takes them out of their comfort zone. In the previous game it was pace and it worked. This will be along the same lines — to make sure we can challenge them with pace. 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. ”
Going with an extra pace option would mean only six batsmen, but du Plessis welcomed that challenge. “One less batter makes your responsibility on the top six a little bit more. I don’t mind that,” he said. “Sometimes when you have a long batting line-up you can take your foot off because someone else might come and do that. We know if we get totals on the board with the bowlers that we have then we’ll bowl sides out.”
Du Plessis also said that the culture in the team meant everyone felt comfortable and were able to perform to optimum levels. “Our culture is strong on making sure that when young guys come into the team that we treat them as though they have played 50 or 70 or 100 Tests,” he revealed. “Everybody is on the same level. I think if you have that mindset it is easier to come in, whereas when you come into a new environment and you feel threatened by big names or personalities in the team. In our dressing room, there’s none of that. It’s easier to feel at home. We know that a person who feels at home is a person that is going to contribute and perform a lot better.”
Du Plessis on three key members who fashioned the Newlands win:
Vernon Philander: The conversation was, ‘Well done, the stuff you have been doing over the off-season is paying off. You’re looking good.’ At the end of the day it’s about trying to get the best out of players. Vernon is in a good place where he is fitter. The most pleasing thing for me was to see that he was wanting the ball all the time. He wasn’t tired after four overs, he was ready to go. If we can have Vernon like that, it makes our bowling even more dangerous. I’m really pleased with the way he stepped up.
AB de Villiers: The expectation from him 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.
Kagiso Rabada: Incredible athlete — I think that’s his strongest attribute. He’s just such a strong bowler. He can bowl the whole day, 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 yet 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.