After 18 months of experimentation, T20 captain Faf du Plessis says he knows what South Africa’s strongest team is.
South Africa play five T20 matches, seven if you include two warm-up games, before they take on England in their first group match of the T20 World Cup.
Since Du Plessis already knows what his best team looks like, the next few games will be used to give all the players some game time.
‘I do know what our best team is, yes,’ Du Plessis said at his pre-match press conference on Thursday. South Africa face England in the first T2oI at Newlands on Friday.
‘That’s the great thing about how our plans unfolded over the last 18 months. In that time we experimented a bit and tried new roles to see where guys are suited best and in my mind I’m pretty clear on what that is.
‘I see the next five games as just giving the guys game time. You can’t always guarantee everyone will play. It’s just about trying to get some guys ready and feeling good before that first match starts in the World Cup.’
Because the conditions in South Africa compared to India will be so different, Du Plessis says losing the series against England won’t be a setback if South Africa do well at the tournament.
‘Everything is about the World Cup so everything we do is geared towards that,’ Du Plessis said.
‘If you lose 2-0, yes, it’s not ideal for preparation; it’s about ticking the stuff that you are still working on and making sure that you are improving on that. If you are in form in that tournament anything is possible.’
AB de Villiers has batted in the top three in the last three series the Proteas have played and opened the batting in India and Bangladesh, which is where he is likely to stay.
‘AB has been batting up at the top for the last three series so I don’t see that changing,’ Du Plessis said.
‘He’s an x-factor player. It’s definitely something that we see as a wild card for the World Cup. It’s something that we are optimistic about in this World Cup. If AB opens I’ll be at three.’
Du Plessis also admitted that the best team in Indian conditions might not be the best team in local conditions.
‘I’d always prefer a strong batting line-up, but when you get to these [India] conditions bowlers can always get you wickets so it’s very different when you compare the two,’ he said.
‘That’s the challenge. You’ve almost got your team for India and then trying to roll that team out in South Africa is possibly not always going to be the right thing. It’s not always about the best thing for now, it’s about looking ahead.’
Dale Steyn has been bowling in the nets again as he recovers from a shoulder injury which sidelined him for three Tests and the entire ODI series. He won’t be considered for selection against England but, if everything goes well, will be back for the series against Australia.
‘He looks fit,’ Du Plessis said. ‘He’ll be considered for the series against Australia, just to give him enough time to get back. He looks like he’s bowling fully again but after such a long lay-off you don’t want to throw a guy straight into a competitive match.
‘It just give him that extra time. There’s a nice break after these T20s so I’m expecting him to be 100% fit for Australia.’