South Africa are ready to back AB de Villiers to open the batting for them in T20 internationals leading up to the World Cup in India next year.
De Villiers returns to play his first home T20 International match in over a year in the opening T20I against New Zealand at Kingsmead on Friday. De Villiers missed the One-Day International and Test series against Bangladesh last month and will partner with Hashim Amla at the top of the order.
De Villiers last played a T20I at home against Australia in March 2014, and seems refreshed and energised after his paternity leave.
‘It’s great to have AB back after a nice rest,’ captain Faf du Plessis said. ‘From a team perspective having AB back is fantastic. He is a great leader and fantastic player, any team would be extremely happy to have him.’
Du Plessis emphasised the importance of batting combinations going forward and that is way De Villiers will be unleashed from the start of the innings.
‘It’s important that we stick to what we want to achieve with our combinations. Putting AB at the top is a conscious change we made leading up to the T20 World Cup. You want to give your most explosive and best player a crack at getting in early and scoring runs, that is something we will stick with even though the conditions here will probably suggest otherwise.
‘We’re playing at home in Durban on a surface that has more grass. Your cricket brain tells you that you should keep him [AB] back a little bit because the ball will move a bit and there is potential of him getting out early, but it’s not about that it’s about the bigger picture.’
Much has been made of the New Zealand players missing this tour either through injury or rest, but Du Plessis disagrees with the assumption that South Africa will face a weak side.
‘I know New Zealand are missing a few players, but the guys who are there are still high quality players,’ he said.
‘With T20 cricket you don’t need as many players in your team to perform because it is so short. If you look at players like Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson who are in great form, they are big players for them. Their bowling attack will be guys who have played international cricket; McClenaghan, Milne and Henry are their frontline seamers, so for me it’s going to be a tough test for us.’
The skipper also lamented the loss of all-rounder JP Duminy, who will miss the whole tour as his wife is due to give birth to their first child soon.
‘It’s a big loss for us, not just from a batting point of view but he also brings a lot of balance to the team.’