SA need AB as keeper-batsman in Aus
The Champions League T20 is something of the past and the focus is now firmly on the test series between the Proteas and the Aussies.
The Proteas are in Sydney at the moment preparing for the first test match. They have some practice days scheduled and a match against Australia A. Seems like the team management belatedly decided that they wanted the practice match in Queensland where the first test match is being played. Tour schedules are agreed upon well in advance and it is no surprise that Cricket Australia refused to move the match to the Sunshine State.
Had Cricket South Africa made this request earlier I am sure the Aussies would have been prepared to stage the match at the Brisbane Centre of Excellence where the Allan Border Oval provides ideal conditions for a warm-up game. In reality the fact that the game is in Sydney will make no difference. Conditions in Sydney should be fine regardless of which venue will be used. As long as rain does not intervene, the South African team will be assured of a competitive match under first class conditions.
Collectively it is important of course that the test XI gets as much opportunity as possible under match conditions. The most significant factor in the warm-up phase will be the wicketkeeping aspect. All eyes are on AB de Villiers. His back injury has flared up again and the question is whether this development will allow him to keep wicket in the test series.
One of the reasons why the Proteas were so difficult to beat in England was the fact that the inclusion of De Villiers as keeper-batsman allowed them to play another specialist batsman in JP Duminy. This meant that the Proteas' batting lineup was immensely strong. Should De Villiers not be able to keep, the situation will change quite dramatically. Thami Tsolekile is the back-up keeper so if De Villiers is unable to keep wicket Thami will come into the team and bat at seven.
I would imagine the coaching staff will do their best to get De Villiers through this series in the role of wicketkeeper-batsman. There is no doubt that when he occupies this position the team is very strong. Should the feeling be that the work load is too much for De Villiers in this respect, the time to make a change will be the home series against New Zealand.
The Kiwis are a poor team so the Proteas should beat them comfortably at home irrespective of who is keeping wicket. If the long term decision is for De Villiers not to keep that will be the time to bring in his replacement. The series after that is against Pakistan at home. They are stronger than New Zealand but should not present that big a threat in South Africa. The series against the Kiwis and Pakistan will give the possible replacement for De Villiers a real opportunity to establish himself.
Hopefully AB will come through strongly in the coming series in Australia. The Proteas need him to.