South Africa skipper, Faf du Plessis © Getty Images
South Africa skipper, Faf du Plessis © Getty Images

South Africa and Zimbabwe  are scheduled to play the first-ever four-day (day-night) Test at Port Elizabeth on Boxing Day (December 26) eve. Nonetheless, Proteas’ skipper, Faf du Plessis, is yet to confirm his participation for the one-off Test. With India  and Australia next-in line to tour the African nation, du Plessis doesn’t want to play without being totally confident about his fitness. The 33-year-old skipper is racing against time to be fully fit following his back injury, picked two months back. He subsequently underwent a shoulder surgery, but the body is taking a little longer for recovery.

Professionals say when there is pain in the disc, there is still a bit of risk so we’ll see how it works’

“My progress was really good over the last two weeks, but I picked up a virus last week which has slowed me down a little bit. Right now, where we stand, I’m trying to get to practice today and see how it feels. I practiced yesterday with it and there was still a bit of pain in the back and the professionals say when there is pain in the disc, there is still a bit of risk so we’ll see how it works (today) and then assess it tomorrow as well. Last week I was 80-20 for playing, now it’s probably 60-40,” stated du Plessis.

‘I’d rather feel good and play no cricket, than play cricket and not feel good’

“It’s always nice to have time in the middle, there is no substitute. I have been feeling really good in the nets. I’ve had some time when the guys were playing Ram Slam. I was working with Neil McKenzie in Cape Town and faced Dale (Steyn), also trying to see where he was at. It was a great opportunity for me to work with him. If you ask me, I want to play cricket. That’s always the most important thing. I’d rather feel good and play no cricket, than play cricket and not feel good.” added du Plessis.

On the other hand, Dale Steyn — yet to make his international comeback post breaking a bone in his shoulder last November (2016) — has been included in the South African squad, but isn’t absolutely a certain in the Playing XI (versus Zimbabwe).

Talking about the bowling lineup, Faf hinted that the pacer may make his much-awaited return against India. Surely, South Africa wouldn’t want to miss the veteran’s services in the long home season, and are rightly not pressing hard for Steyn’s comeback.

“Dale, in terms of the amount of overs he has bowled leading up to the first Test, it’s important to assess how ready he is to bowl at full intensity, where we want him to be. That’s a discussion that will take place after today. You want a Dale at 100 per cent ready to go when he plays. If we feel that after today he is there, we will make a decision. If we feel he isn’t quite where he needs to be from a Test match intensity point of view, there is still enough time to get him ready before that first Test against India.

(One eye on India series) “I would be lying if I say I wasn’t. We are preparing for a big summer and this is a stepping stone to that. We are already thinking balance of the team, trying to think of combinations that would be best suited to beat India. But that is also determined by whether I am playing or not, that affects the balance of the team,” concluded du Plessis.

South Africa, in all likelihood, would go with Keshav Maharaj in the day-night four-day encounter versus Zimbabwe. Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel would walk into the lineup post their respective injuries, and join third seamer in Kagiso Rabada.