... but De Vil­liers faces dif­fi­cult call on who to play against Sri Lankans

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - LUNGANI ZAMA

THE starters against Eng­land were a bit un­der done, but now for the main course. South Africa’s long and wind­ing search for ICC supremacy has taken its lat­est stop, and they hope to re­turn to The Oval in a fort­night, to con­test the Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy fi­nal.

To­day, the Proteas lock horns with Sri Lanka in a Group B clash, and then there are four in­creas­ingly steeper steps be­tween them and the just desserts of vic­tory. No one in the South African camp is look­ing that far, be­cause his­tory has taught them not to get ahead of them­selves.

Be­fore they look at the un­pre­dictabil­ity of Pak­istan, the might of In­dia, and the squeaky-bum arena that is the semi-fi­nals, they have to get past a Sri Lankan team that has lost much of its tour­na­ment mon­grel of years gone by.

Gone is the time­less grace of Ku­mar San­gakarra and Ma­hela Jayawar­dene, and the mys­tery of Mut­tiah Mu­ralitha­ran. They are, of course, ir­re­place­able, and the new gen­er­a­tion has an aw­ful lot to live up to.

That is not South Africa’s con­cern, though, and AB de Vil­liers and his men are look­ing to build a head of steam.

“We are peak­ing at the right time,” skip­per De Vil­liers de­clared, at the cap­tain’s pre- match press con­fer­ence yes­ter­day.

In that bullish spirit, De Vil­liers re­vealed that the team would be go­ing for the jugu­lar with the ball, and look­ing to make an im­me­di­ate im­pres­sion.

“We have an op­por­tu­nity to bowl this Sri Lankan side out, so to me it’s re­ally im­por­tant to get your top three bowlers in there,” he said of the po­ten­tial make-up of his side.

That line of think­ing would sug­gest that Morne Morkel is now in the in­side lane to join Kag­iso Rabada and Chris Mor­ris in the start­ing line-up, to be sup­ple­mented by one of Dwaine Pre­to­rius, Wayne Parnell or Andile Phehluk­wayo.

“That is a dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion,” De Vil­liers said.

For much of their sum­mer, South Africa leaned on their rash of all-rounders, and they did the job against New Zea- land, Aus­tralia and Sri Lanka. But they were con­fronted by a bullish Eng­land re­cently, and the need for spe­cial­ists has now be­come ap­par­ent, es­pe­cially with the stakes so high.

“Not that all-rounders can’t do a job, but I’d be lean­ing to­wards get­ting our best bowlers in there,” De Vil­liers con­tin­ued.

It is all a jug­gling act, and De Vil­liers the leader has to be com­fort­able with the unit he takes out on the field. There is no room for doubt, as the Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy chucks you out to the wilder­ness no sooner than it wel­comes you into the fold.

The onus is on be­ing ruth­less, and there is a pre­mium on de­ci­sive lead­er­ship. De Vil­liers main­tains that he is up to the task.

“Be­ing cap­tain has its chal­lenges, but I’ve done it for a while and I feel com­fort­able,” he said of lead­ing his coun­try.

Be­sides, as he pointed out, there are more than enough chefs in the Proteas’ kitchen.

“We’ve got four or five lead­ers in the side, and we all have a right to have our say. The cul­ture we’ve cre­ated al­lows me to do my thing.”

That ‘thing’ which De Vil­liers re­ferred to is to be the de­struc­tive player that South Africa need for the big games – which means ev­ery con­test in this tour­na­ment. He has shown flick­ers of form, and the hope in camp is that he build that up, and then hits the af­ter­burn­ers in the fi­nal week.

There is a lot on his plate, but he is not head chef in the team for noth­ing.

Hap­pily, he has a full pantry of ingredients, with David Miller and Im­ran Tahir both passed fit for the open­ing match.

IN OR OUT? Now over his in­jury wor­ries, Morne Morkel could start to­day.

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