Sport

Two-hit wonder: De Villiers to keep and open in first T20

By Ant Sims 1 March 2013

Just a few days after saying he doesn’t quite know where he fits into the team, AB de Villiers has been named as opener and wicketkeeper for the first T20 against Pakistan on Friday. Skipper Faf du Plessis insists it’s all about building towards the future, but where does that leave Quinton de Kock? By ANT SIMS.

Just a few days ago, AB de Villiers said he didn’t know exactly where he slotted into the T20 side. He wasn’t sure of his role and expressed his frustration at the small number of T20 games being played, saying this made it harder for players to find their feet in the team.

On Thursday, however, it was announced he would be wicketkeeper and opening batsman for the first T20 against Pakistan on Friday. It was quite a turnaround in a matter of hours, although skipper Faf du Plessis says it was all part of the long-term plan.

“Our plan is definitely looking towards the next World Cup. It’s just 12 games away and he might be a hidden gem. AB has always opened the batting in his career, and it’s something we’re trying out because he is such a brilliant player. You want to get your best players in as early as possible in T20 cricket,” Du Plessis said.

While De Villiers has featured as an opener in both one-day internationals and Test matches, he has never batted higher than four in T20 internationals. He has, however, done so on the domestic circuit.

In 2005-06, he was fourth-highest scorer opening the batting for the Titans. He also served as wicketkeeper in that season, and notched a top of score of 91 unbeaten. It’s that kind of batting prowess which the Proteas have been so desperate for, especially at the top of the order, and Du Plessis reckons his schoolmate has that special gift that could make all the difference.

“He’s one of the best players in the world, who can pitch up and score a century on the day. He’s an X-factor player and there aren’t many of those in the world,” the skipper said.

De Villiers will partner with Henry Davids at the top, which should make for an explosive opening partnership, despite the two players being quite different.

“He plays proper shots at the top and will offer good balance to that opening partnership with Henry, who is more the guy who will take you on all the time,” Du Plessis explained.

Mixing combinations is all part of the plan, of course. But the question that remains is what it all means for Quinton de Kock. The young wicketkeeper batsman was hyped up as the next big thing when he was ushered to replace De Villiers during the series. De Kock is in the T20 squad, but was dropped from the one-day squad. Planning for the future certainly does seem to be on South Africa’s agenda, and De Kock could very well find himself back in the mix for the second T20 on Sunday – especially as Du Plessis insists it’s all about trying out new combinations and allowing players to settle into those roles.

“We need to focus on getting our combinations right, because that’s something we haven’t managed to do before. Whether we use the first six of these next 12 matches to work on our combinations and then use the next six to settle in those roles, we want to make sure we have more of plan when it gets closer to the World Cup,” Du Plessis said.

The skipper added that the team needed to start focusing on adapting to different conditions, since it was much easier to take on teams who might struggle in South African conditions.

“We need to start looking at what we need to do be successful enough to win a trophy. It’s easy when you’re in South Africa and playing a team from the subcontinent, and you can just bowl back a length,” said Du Plessis.

“But we need to improve our skills so we can bowl better on flatter wickets when we get to the subcontinent. Our practices are geared towards that. We’re practising skills we want to improve in a few games. The stuff we’ve done in the past hasn’t really worked for us. So we need some fresh ideas and a new outlook,” the skipper concluded. DM

Photo: South Africa’s AB de Villiers hits a shot off a delivery from Australia’s John Hastings at the WACA during the third day’s play of the third cricket test match in Perth December 2, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer

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