Oz tour is per­fect prep – AB

De Vil­liers says there are pos­i­tives in ev­ery­thing his side ex­pe­ri­ence now ahead of the World Cup

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - STU­ART HESS

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.”

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