Where's AB? Faf doesn't ask...
Faf du Plessis had an enquiry of his own after responding to reporters’ queries in Cape Town on Sunday: “No AB questions?”
South Africa’s visit to Sri Lanka this month will be their first engagement since AB de Villiers’ retirement from international cricket‚ which shocked the world game when he announced it on May 24.
The tour will start in Galle on July 12 with the first of two Tests‚ which perhaps explains why De Villiers wasn’t prominent in Sunday’s conversation.
As Du Plessis himself said‚ “AB has only played the last one or two series for the Test team.”
De Villiers made himself unavailable for selection for 17 of South Africa’s most recent 25 Tests.
“It will be a nice opportunity [in Sri Lanka] for someone like Temba [Bavuma] to put his peg in the ground and make the [No. 4] position his own‚” Du Plessis said.
Whoever succeeds De Villiers can expect a searching test of their technique and temperament on the Asian island.
“I’m expecting tough conditions‚” Du Plessis said.
“Sri Lanka will look at our side and think that we have a better side than them on paper.
“I think they’ll try and make [the conditions] as dry as possible and spin as much as possible.”
The Sri Lankans will know that the last time South Africa played a Test series there‚ in July 2014‚ the visitors ground out a 1-0 series win.
But the South Africans’ confidence at succeeding on the sub-continent was dealt a serious blow when India hammered them 3-0 in November 2015 on pitches that were tilted in the home side’s favour‚ sometimes to a laughably unfair degree.
Sri Lanka will know that‚ too‚ but Du Plessis felt his team would be better prepared: “There were a lot of lessons for us‚ technically‚ as the batters [from the India series].
“You almost have to go through something like that to pick your game — to start from scratch [and ask] how do you make it better?
“Your hardest places to bat will be in the middle [order] because you come in facing the spinning ball and the reverse-swinging ball.
“So we’ll discuss trying to get our players of spin in the middle periods to try and counter that.”
Whatever. Whoever. Wherever. South Africa will still have the fast and the furious.
“No matter what the conditions are the big strength of our team will always be our fast bowlers‚” Du Plessis said.
“[Dale] Steyn‚ Kagiso [Rabada] and ‘Vern’ [Vernon Philander] are all very good all-wicket bowlers.
“So no matter what the conditions are‚ those three have proven that they can do it.
“Dale’s got a fantastic record on the sub-continent. ‘KG’‚ he’s gold; he’ll be able to do anything. They’ll be a big threat in any attack.
“But if the conditions are really bad we can look at a second spinner.”
South Africa have taken three spinners to Sri Lanka — Keshav Maharaj‚ Tabraiz Shamsi and Shaun von Berg.
But‚ since Brett Schultz took 20 wickets in three Tests in South Africa’s first series there in August and September 1993‚ it’s the quicks who’ve got the job done.
And‚ with Steyn needing three wickets to become South Africa’s most successful Test bowler and Rabada ranked No. 1‚ that isn’t going to change in a hurry.