Vernon Philander says the Proteas have made provisions in order to cope without AB de Villiers in the Test side.
De Villiers’ time with the Proteas camp came to an end after their T20 series defeat against England, due to him ruling himself out of the Test series, and according to Philander, the Proteas have adjusted to life without the 33-year-old.
‘We’ve made adjustments in order to move on,’ Philander said. ‘I think that’s a personal decision. It’s entirely up to him what he wants to play.
‘We’re a settled unit now. The boys have moved on, the boys have obviously done well over the last 12 months. Our focus is not on one particular player. Our focus is on the team and getting the team to do well.’
Philander will be returning to a happy hunting ground when the Proteas take on England in the first Test at Lord’s, where the 32-year-old became the fastest to 50 Test wickets in 2012.
His Man of the Match performance in South Africa’s 51-run win at the ground in 2012 led the Proteas to a 2-0 series victory and the No 1 Test ranking.
There are four survivors, including Philander, from the 2012 series-winning side, which includes Hashim Amla, JP Duminy and Morne Morkel.
‘Thinking back to 2012, we had a culture camp before coming here,’ Philander said at Lord’s on Tuesday. ‘We had something similar a few months ago before coming here as well. The way the guys have been training over the last week has been phenomenal to see.
‘We played the warm-up match in Worcester, guys got some time out in the middle and everyone looked good. Hopefully, everyone will be ready come Thursday.
‘There are a lot of new faces who bring new energy to the side, which is good to have around. As long as you have the energy to burn, that brings excitement going into this Test series.’
Philander has also shown faith in Dean Elgar’s ability to lead the side, after the Proteas opener was chosen to replace Faf du Plessis as captain, who will be unavailable for the opening Test.
‘It’s an opportunity for someone else to step up and lead the country,’ Philander said. ‘We’ve got all the faith in Dean. If you have the support of the other ten guys on the field, his job will be easier. It’s a big miss losing Faf, but we understand his circumstances.’
The Proteas opening bowler also commented on his growing relationship with his new opening partner, Kagiso Rabada.
‘He is just a phenomenal talent. Every time he gets the ball in hand he seems to want to run in and bowl faster and get wickets.
‘He has got a never-say-die attitude about him, which is exciting to have. He is not shy of bowling the overs and giving it to the batters as well. Hopefully, he will have a good Test series.’
Morkel is the only other bowler in the squad to have played a series in England, which gives the two senior bowlers added responsibility to impart knowledge and ideas to the rest of the attack.
‘There is always a little something in there with the Duke ball, conditions here also depend on the overhead,’ he said.
‘We always look forward to playing Test cricket, playing against some of the stronger nations always brings out the best in us. We have a great record away from home so hopefully, we can continue with that.
‘It could play on your mind if you are not used to it,’ he said of the slope. ‘I always find it’s a wicket-taking option, when it gets flat here you can use the slope to run it back in, similarly when there is movement. You have to get used to it quickly, most of us would have played here and had a feel for it, so we can share ideas.’
Photo: Petri Oeschger/Gallo Images