Faf du Plessis says the Proteas batters need a multi-dimensional skill set to negotiate the threat posed by Pakistan’s spinners.
On Tuesday, South Africa will play their first Test in Pakistan since 2007. And while they’ve got solid training under the belt, they’ve yet to see the Karachi pitch they’ll be playing on.
Traditionally, Pakistan’s tracks have taken less spin than others on the sub-continent, certainly less so than India, where Proteas batsmen have generally found life tough.
The Proteas, though, are expecting the Karachi wicket to be far more spin friendly. Pakistan have loaded their squad with spin bowlers – Sajid Khan, Yasir Shah, Nauman Ali and Mohammad Nawaz will seek to torment the Proteas’ batters – and Faf du Plessis says they have to counter this with a broad skills base.
‘From a spin point of view when you come to the sub-continent, the theory is like when we are playing in South Africa when we play and miss against the seamer. If he bowls a good ball and it spun past your bat, it’s just making sure you see it as a good ball and it went past your bat and you played it well,’ Du Plessis said.
‘But it’s also about making sure you are looking at two or three ways of getting off strike. The challenge is when a spinner bowls a lot of dot balls and you feel stuck and you can’t get off strike and he settles into bowling a good area, which Yasir Shah is very good at. He has really got good control. If you just let him bowl at you, he will bowl really well at you. You need to make sure you’ve got some plans to either get ones off him or have scoring options to get some boundaries.’
The Proteas picked three spinners – Keshav Maharaj, Tabraiz Shamsi and George Linde – in their Test squad. If conditions are as they expect, there will be a debate about playing two spinners and either dropping a seamer or all-rounder. In the latter scenario, Linde is likely to prevail over Shamsi, on the basis that he is a highly competent batsman who would soften the blow of losing Wiaan Mulder’s ability with the bat.
Du Plessis comes into the tour on a hot run of form. He is the most senior of the batters in the squad and, together with Dean Elgar, has become the backbone of the lineup. There are a clutch of players struggling for form, most notably Quinton de Kock, compounding the pressure on the aforementioned duo.
Asked about his resurgence after a difficult Test series against England in the 2019-20 season, Du Plessis attributed this to a mental shift.
‘It’s coming from a place of contentment,’ he said. ‘I am intentional in making sure I really enjoy my cricket. If that comes through in performances or the way that I speak, then I am glad that it’s happening.’