Oz tour is perfect prep – AB
De Villiers says there are positives in everything his side experience now ahead of the World Cup
MICHAEL Clarke and AB de Villiers came into their respective national teams as precocious young talents, both of whom were going to be central to the futures of the Australian and South African cricket sides.
Clarke made his Test debut in October of 2004, in a team featuring some of the sport’s greatest names; Gilchrist, Ponting, Warne and McGrath, while De Villiers, pictured, made his Test debut two months later, for a South African side in the midst of change. Australia won their series in India, South Africa lost on home soil to England.
Both players showed they belonged at the very top of the sport. They were potential greats and in Clarke’s case, even then as a young pup, it was clear that he had great leadership potential.
A decade later, they captain their respective sides in what is expected to be a highly charged ODI series at the start of what, for both of them, could be career defining seasons. Clarke and De Villiers have adopted very similar aggressive approaches to captaining their sides, which is in many ways to be expected given the nature of the players available to them. Clarke is probably the more creative (or funky) of the two when it comes to field placing, but De Villiers doesn’t feel he needs to employ weird fields – as he’s got Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander bowling for him.
Where it differs for them also, is the history of the two teams; Australia have a rich history of success in the World Cup having won it four times; South Africa only know anguish.
Clarke saw no reason to have any sympathy for them either, despite the nature of some of South Africa’s defeats in the knockout stages of previous tournaments. “That’s for them to worry about, I’m not really concerned,” he said yes- terday. “Australia have had success in big tournaments, I’d love to see that legacy continue with this World Cup and on into the future. The big tournaments and big series are what you look forward to as a player.”
Cricket South Africa are doing all in their power to get the Proteas as best prepared as possible for that tournament.
More OneDay Internationals were added to the schedule for the tour to Zimbabwe earlier this year, and three ODIs were arranged in New Zealand before this tour to get players acclimatised to the effects of jetlag and to get a feel of conditions in a country where South Africa will play three group matches next year.
“You do what you can do to get into great form for a World Cup. I feel we’re doing everything we can, covering all bases. You don’t want to do something stupid, or be overly clever or get too fancy,” De Villiers remarked. “This (series) is one of the best challenges, knowing we will play here and that we may run into Australia (at the World Cup) at some stage.
There are pros all over the place, as long as we play good cricket, learn from our mistakes, and build on our strengths it’s perfect preparation going into the World Cup.”
De Villiers’ team have built a solid record in the last year, adding to the self-belief among the players. Winning the five-match series against Clarke’s powerful Aus- tralian side will enhance their confidence even further.
By the same token, however, De Villiers explained that losing the eries won’t be a catastrophe. “It’s also important to know that (losing the series) is not the be-all and endall. We want to win every game, but if it doesn’t happen we know there are things to look at.
“In a way, without wanting to jinx us, it’s not a bad thing to lose a couple of games over here so that you can at least know ‘this is an area where we can improve, maybe this works against Australia and maybe not’,” mused De Villiers.
As for South Africa’s World Cup past, De Villiers stressed that it was important for the players to put that behind them, because it won’t help them next February and March.
“The guys who were part of the past experiences know what happened. There is nothing to discuss at all, except that we haven’t won a World Cup and now we want to win one.”