Cape Town: South Africa captain Faf Du Plessis admitted that his team was left surprised by the selection of batsman Rohit Sharma over Ajinkya Rahane and also the debut of Jasprit Bumrah in the first Test at Cape Town.
“We were surprised yes. We didn’t think that Jasprit Bumrah and Rohit Sharma would have played. They have been in a bit of form one-day cricket wise so they’re probably just running with that,” du Plessis said.
Skipper also admitted that choosing his own team was a difficult choice as well.
“The decision of picking a team was definitely the hardest I have been involved in. There is so much value in both scenarios. Playing seven batsmen that offer a bit more seam is a very good call.,” said du Plessis.
“But I just thought, if you have Steyn, Morkel, Philander, Rabada, that’s four bowlers you cannot look past. It’s a positive move. Yes, Dale hasn’t played a lot of cricket but the way he was bowling in the nets, and the way he bowled in the first innings, I think he was one of our best bowlers,” du Plessis said, explaining his rationale behind the selection.
Du Plessis further added that they would have liked a total of 350 runs as the 208-run target made the hosts nervous at lunch time.
“I was nervous. I knew that the new ball was going to be key for us and that if we could get wickets with the new ball we feel like we can get through their batting line-up,” said du Plessis.
“Obviously they’ve got a few quality players in there but once you can put a bit of pressure on them I thought we can get through them. But definitely I was very nervous. I came here this morning hoping to get a 350 lead and bowl to them tonight, so obviously that didn’t go to plan.”
Du Plessis was all praise for his bowlers, saying they did a fantastic job.
“We’ve got fantastic seam bowlers and if there’s anything in the wicket, Vernon Philander and the other two guys are amazing. And if we had Dale Steyn there today, I reckon we would have rolled them out cheaper,” he said.
“If there’s something in the wicket, Vernon is as good as you get around the world. What impressed me most today was he wanted to bowl overs. He didn’t say after three or four overs That’s enough. He wanted the ball and he wanted to make a plan, that’s all you ask for from a senior players point of view.”
Du Plessis also explained the rationale behind sending Steyn out to bat,
“We said if by any chance AB is still there, Dale can just go and just stand there and hopefully AB can smash a few sixes. The plan wasn’t to get him to bat and injure him more. He was padded up before we spoke about this to him. I feel incredibly bad for Dale. He worked for over a year. He was challenged through periods where he started and got injured again, and then started and got injured again.”
On the bowling front, du Plessis felt Steyn was back to his best.
“It was great to see Dale like he didnt go anywhere. He was back to his best. I was standing at slip and we felt like he could nick guys off at anytime. You were just happy to see Dale Steyn back on the park, so this is a huge step back for him. Luckily its not his shoulder again. The foot, or injury that he has, is something you probably can get over a lot quicker and we are looking forward to bringing him back in the fold when he’s fit again.”
The skipper said that conditions in the morning looked unplayable from a batting point of view.
“This morning felt unplayable when we batted. I think pace and bounce is something that you look for in South Africa. There was movement in this Test match. Obviously overhead conditions and moisture could play a role. When we go to Pretoria, we will hopefully get the same and Johannesburg. Those are renowned for being a little bit quicker. Hopefully we’ll get them there,” said du Plessis.
He also praised the Indian fast bowling battery, saying they have the attack for South African conditions.
“They’ve got guys that can swing the ball, guys that can seam the ball around and they’ve also got a bit of pace. It’s similar to our attack. So I’m not surprised. We wanted the wicket to be a little bit like that, so we expected the wicket to be a bit more bowler friendly. You just needed one or two guys to step up and score some runs. So we did that fortunately in that first innings. I felt that one of me, AB and Quinton could have pushed through to get an 80-odd and put an even bigger total.”