Mark Boucher, the South Africa head coach, believes Faf du Plessis' vast experience of Indian conditions will be crucial for the side during the upcoming three-match ODI series, starting 12 March in Dharamsala.
Du Plessis, who stepped down from captaincy positions last month, failed to make a substantial contribution during the T20Is against Australia, managing just 44 runs from three innings. He was then rested for the ODI leg of the series, meaning his last appearance in the format was during the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2019, against Australia incidentally, when he scored a match-winning hundred.
The 35-year-old will return to the format against India, and Boucher reiterated how valuable an asset he was to the team. "If you go to a place like India, you need to find a balance between youth and experience," Boucher said. "Faf is really doing well in ODI cricket for South Africa. The last time he played, he got a hundred. He knows the Indian conditions very well."
Just him being around the squad will add a lot of value and experience. Why you would want to have Faf is because he has done really well in Indian conditions.
Du Plessis aggregated 323 runs at 80.75, including a match-winning 133* in the decider in Mumbai, when South Africa last toured India for a bilateral ODI series in 2015-16. His runs helped South Africa to their first series win in India in seven attempts.
For all that, he still faces stiff competition from Janneman Malan, Jon-Jon Smuts and Heinrich Klaasen, all of whom did well with the bat in the 3-0 win against Australia in the ODIs earlier this month.
“It’s a good headache to have," Boucher said, when asked of the selection dilemma. "Just him [du Plessis] being around the squad will add a lot of value and experience as well. We will look at conditions and then put together combinations. Why you would want to have Faf is because he has done really well in those (Indian) conditions.
Janneman Malan has been added to South Africa's ODI squad to face India. pic.twitter.com/ATFftaZPeK— ICC (@ICC) March 7, 2020
"India is going to be a tough test. Lot of guys haven’t played a lot of cricket in India as well. What’s impressive is guys have responded to the messages we have sent out to them on batting and bowling perspectives.”
T20Is continue to be of higher priority with the ICC Men's T20 World Cup in Australia seven months away, and it's a format South Africa are trying to find consistency in. "We have just beaten a very good team now," he said. "We needed confidence and it will certainly give us a lot of confidence. T20s are important this year given we have the T20 World Cup. But in general, Proteas and Cricket South Africa (CSA), we need to find ourselves growing."