SANDIPAN BANERJEE | 9 FEBRUARY, 2018
AB De Villiers Boost for Struggling South Africa
If de Villiers gets match fit before Saturday’s fixture, he is likely to bat at No. 3 or 4.
With 0-3 down in the ongoing six-match One-Day International (ODI) series against India, South Africa are desperately seeking some inspiration and the return of their premier batsman AB De Villiers in the squad can prove to be the must-needed boost which is the struggling host batting line-up is looking for.
De Villiers sustained a figure injury while taking a catch of Indian captain Virat Kohli in the first innings of the Johannesburg Test and subsequently ruled out of the first three ODIs. During his absence, South Africa’s batting failed miserably as they have failed to tackle India’s wrist-spin duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal, who have taken 21 wickets in the series already. Apart from the century of Faf du Plessis in Durban (before his injury) and 51 by JP Duminy in Cape Town, no other South African batsman has a half-century in the series.
However, though the selectors have added de Villiers in the squad, but the final call regarding his availability for the must-win ‘Pink ODI’ on Saturday (February 10) at Wanderers will only be taken after Friday's practice session.
"Having AB back is going to be a massive boost," Duminy said after South Africa’s defeat in the third ODI at Cape Town by 124 runs. "He's one of the world's best players in one-day cricket. He will bring confidence to the team and his leadership within the group will add a lot of value as well."
If de Villiers gets match fit before Saturday’s fixture, he is likely to bat at No. 3 or 4. In that case, the team will depend heavily on him along with Duminy to tackle India’s spin-duo. With his experience and expertise, de Villiers can turn out to be the savior for his team.
However, following the poor show of David Miller and Khaya Zondo, the hosts would also like to play Farhaan Behardien, to strengthen the middle-order. Behardien is known to be a decent batsman against spinners.
South Africa are already missing their regular skipper du Plessis and wicket-keeper batsman Quinton De Kock due to injuries. The 23-year old Aiden Markram, who himself has only played a handful of limited-overs matches, is currently leading the side in du Plessis’ absence.
Meanwhile, the annual ‘Pink ODI’ is an initiative of the Cricket South Africa (CSA) to raise awareness against breast cancer. The match has already been sold out and CSA is aiming to raise 1 million Rand from that fixture for charity. Saturday’s fixture will be the seventh Pink ODI and the Proteas are yet to lose a match while playing wearing pink.
De Villiers, especially has fond memories of ‘Pink day’, as during the 2015 pink ODI against West Indies, he hit the fastest hundred in international 50-over cricket (in 31 balls). He scored a sensational 44-ball 149 in that game. South Africa will be an eying a similar sort of heroics from him to get back in the series. They are yet to lose a bilateral ODI series against India at home and in the fourth ODI, if things do not fall in place, then history will be created by Virat Kohli’s team.
The six-match ODI series will be followed by a three-match T20I series. Following these fixtures against India, South Africa will take on Australia in a four-match Test series, with the first Test scheduled to begin in Durban on March 1.
South Africa squad for last three ODIs:
Aiden Markram (C), Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Imran Tahir, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Lungisani Ngidi, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Khayelihle Zondo, Farhaan Behardien.