South Africa go into the final Test against India knowing that a victory can earn them valuable points in the ICC Test rankings.
The Proteas will drop down from 125 points to 114 if they lose the series 3-0, which puts them under a lot of pressure to beat England in South Africa in order to maintain their No 1 ranking.
Faf du Plessis says the senior players have taken it upon themselves to keep the rest of the squad, especially the younger more inexperienced players, positive as the 72-day tour comes to an end.
The squad arrived in Delhi on Monday evening, and will begin their preparations at the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium on Tuesday morning.
Du Plessis says the squad can do nothing more than take their lessons on to the next match and to focus on the positives after a disappointing series loss.
‘I’m a senior player and I’m finding it tough because the conditions dictate the way you play and your performances,’ Du Plessis said.
‘It’s important for us to try and keep the younger players positive, and we’ve done that. I thought that Dane [Vilas] kept really well on a wicket with spin and bounce and with the ball sometimes keeping low. What we have to do is focus on the positives. Facing this in your first Test series abroad is a challenge.
‘These have been the toughest conditions that I have played under, it’s also been a challenge for the young guys coming in. It’s a hard task for them because they get judged by playing Test cricket in these conditions where you have found that even our experienced players have found it tough. We have to keep motivating them and to keep the spirits high.
‘The good thing about it is you can learn from this, improve your game. Even I have learnt a lot about my game in the last few matches. I’ve concentrated on my defence against spin in the first 20 balls I face. In South Africa, Australia and New Zealand you can take your time, even if you aren’t getting bad balls, but the surface here doesn’t dictate what’s going to happen. This is a huge learning curve for us and also something we can take forward.’
One positive has been the Proteas’ seamers, who have continued to make valuable contributions despite the placid conditions and the absence of premier fast bowler Dale Steyn. He will undergo a fitness test on Tuesday to determine his availability for the final match starting on Thursday.
‘Morne [Morkel] has always played the support role and I’ve found that since Dale [Steyn] hasn’t been there, he has stepped up magnificently,’ Du Plessis said.
‘I didn’t even know he had that much skill with a reverse-swinging ball. You expect that from Dale, but for Morne to do that consistently was exceptional. It’s great for KG [Rabada] as well to bowl with a reverse-swinging ball upfront. He has improved as well with his control and temperament.’
Picture: Hindustan Times