Faf du Plessis, the South Africa captain, expects a “nice and hostile” reception when his team travels to Australia for a limited-over series.
The teams are set to play three one-day internationals and one Twenty20 International. It will be the first time they will face off since the incident-filled Test series in South Africa, when Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft found themselves in trouble over ball-tampering and were subsequently handed lengthy bans.
Du Plessis expects the Australian crowds and media to make it difficult for them, but added that the sense of competition might bring out the best in his team.
"Australia is our favourite team to play against,” he said ahead of the team’s departure on Tuesday, 23 October. “All the stuff that comes with playing them, on and off the field, I love that and I feel that brings the best out of us as a team and even us as South Africans, we love that fiery competition.”
In late 2016, on their previous visit Down Under, du Plessis was in a ball-tampering controversy of his own when he was seen sucking on a mint and appearing to use it to shine the ball. He was fined 100% of his match-fee and became a target of the press, but went on to respond with a century.
"It will be nice and hostile. The last two tours home and away, it's certainly been very entertaining off the field. We are not expecting anything less. Zunaid (Wadee), our security officer, has been working hard in the gym, he's prepared for whatever lies ahead," du Plessis joked.
"It's definitely not an easy place to travel. The crowds do play their part, they're like a 12th man. Your mental capabilities and strength is just as important as your skill.
"For a lot of the new guys it will be the first time where they field on the boundary and they hear just how good they are as human beings. That will be a new thing for them."
As for the cricket itself, the captain is hoping to concentrate on finding the right balance for the team ahead of the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2019. The team for the World Cup was "85%" known, he said, but acknowledged that injuries had hampered preparation.
"I would say we are about 85% to the team that we will be taking to the World Cup‚" said Du Plessis. "We have an idea of the kind of players that we want to take to the World Cup. We have said it in the past that we want to start identifying players and we are using current games at our disposal to see what exactly brings the best out of them.
"Unfortunately‚ we have had injuries to key players like JP Duminy and Hashim Amla. But at the same time, we have guys like Chris Morris‚ Dwaine Pretorius and Farhaan Behardien coming back to the team‚ which is a huge opportunity for them."
We are 85% close to our World Cup squad. Injuries will hamper preparation and will give opportunities but we have an idea of the roles we want to take to England -Du Plessis pic.twitter.com/S5yvws3Zf4— Cricket South Africa (@OfficialCSA) October 23, 2018
Morris in particular excites du Plessis. “He's got so much X-factor as a white-ball cricketer, and this is an important tour for him to make sure he starts getting it right in terms of consistency," du Plessis said. "We know on his day he's as good as any player in the world."
The injuries also give Aiden Markram a chance to open the batting. Du Plessis feels he and Markram are best suited to batting in the top three, and it is yet to be decided which of the two will come in at first drop long term.
“His role has changed because when he came into the team AB de Villiers was still playing at No.4‚” he said. "Now it looks like the best position suited for him would be in the top three and that would be if space is available.
"Obviously with Quinton and Hash (Amla) playing‚ those two positions take care of themselves and then there is a possibility of playing at three if that spot is available. There is the other guy [du Plessis himself] who plays at No.3 and I have said it to the coach that three is a position that I enjoy.
"But I do see where he is coming from by wanting me to play at number four. Number four is a versatile position and we have agreed that we will give it a go until the Sri Lanka series to see what works best.
"If it means I bat there for the rest of the season‚ we will see what works for the team. But I will go where ever I am wanted because I have batted up and down on the line up in the past.”
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