South African skipper AB de Villiers talks about his teams strategy against their upcoming match against Sri Lanka in the ICC Champions Trophy 2017. Both teams are placed in Group B along with India and Pakistan. South Africa are coming off a 2-1 defeat by the hands of England, while Sri Lanka drew their 3-ODI series against Bangladesh at home. De Villiers talks in depth about the match as well in his pre-match press conference.

Q. Who are the bowlers you are targeting from the Sri Lankan lineup?

AB de VILLIERS: The bowlers we’re targeting? No one in particular. We respect each player we play against, and they have all-round a pretty good attack. We played against them a lot in the last in the recent while, so we are used to all the bowlers and we follow some of the game plans when we do get on top of them. We did in South Africa, as there were certain patterns, and we’ll be focusing on the same kind of things.

Q. But during that series, Malinga was not there, he was away for a long time from ODI cricket. So what’s your take on Malinga’s return?

AB de VILLIERS: Played thousands of games against him. He’s still the same kind of bowler. Does the same things. We’re very well prepared against him and we’ve had some good success against him in the past. Lots of respect for him as a cricket player. But we’ll follow our game plans against him tomorrow. It’s all in place.

Q. You’ve seen high scores in recent times. So if you’re batting first, what is a par score that you will probably be looking at that you think is safe to defend?

AB de VILLIERS: Absolutely no idea. We don’t play our cricket like that. It’s all about assessing on the day. We’ll have a general idea at the last ten, 20 early hours about the average score, but you can’t just go on that. I like to come out here, get good information from our opening batsmen, our top three, and then after ten, 15, 20 overs, come up with a decent target and break it up in smaller targets as well.

So I’m not exactly sure what to expect. We saw a high-scoring game the last one. The groundsman reckons it won’t be as high for tomorrow. Every single wicket you play on is different, and we’re not going to come out and say, that’s what we want.

Q. It’s pretty unusual to have a choice between two spinners who have shown, both of them I suppose, an ability to take wickets. From a South African point of view, how will you decide between the two of them? Is Imran fit? How are you looking to use him in this tournament?

AB de VILLIERS: Imran is fit and he’s our No. 1 bowler, our No. 1 spin bowler. And Keshav understands his role when it comes to that. There might be a time in the tournament where we might use a different strategy, if we play against a certain opposition or on a certain field.

But for tomorrow, Imran is our top bowler and the No. 1 pick. He is fit and ready to go. Unless something happens from here on into the game, he’s ready to go. So he should see his name on the team sheet tomorrow.

Q. Just about the fitness of David Miller and everyone else, is everyone fit and good to go?

AB de VILLIERS: Dave passed his fitness test and, once again, same story as Immy. Unless something happens, he’ll be on the team sheet tomorrow as well.

Q. Personally, you’ve given up Tests recently to focus on ODIs. What would you say this trophy means to you?

AB de VILLIERS: I’d love to get my hands on it. It feels good in my hands actually, to be honest with you (smiling).

I haven’t given up Tests. I’ve decided to take a bit of time away from it to make sure that I am fresh for tournaments like this, and it’s worked pretty well so far. I’ve had some injury scares in the recent past, but luckily got through all that and I’m ready to go tomorrow. I’d love to take that home one day.

Q. You’ve set your sights on the 2019 World Cup, but is it fair to say that if you’ve already won a major tournament when you get there, half the work might already have been done already?

AB de VILLIERS: Yes, I think it will help a crazy lot if we can win this one for the 2019 World Cup. It’s again here in England. If you can do it once here, you can definitely repeat it.

So yeah, lots of focus on this tournament. It’s a short tournament, so it’s not quite the same as the World Cup, not the same kind of challenges. But if you do get your rhythms right in this tournament and you get going, and if we do that, I think we’ll be difficult to stop.

Q. The Proteas have a pretty successful recent history against Sri Lanka, knocking them out of the World Cup and the whitewash series. Are you expecting a backlash from them? Do you think their attitude is going to change? They will want a bit or revenge?

AB de VILLIERS: They always play well in these tournaments. We’re well aware of that and they are a very well-respected team within our group, and they deserve that respect.

Even though they haven’t been in the greatest form in the last season, you come to tournaments like this and anything can happen. It’s all about what happens out there on the day. They have a lot of match-winners on their team.

So it’s so much more important for us to make sure that we don’t think about what happened in the last series and we focus on tomorrow’s game. So yeah, that’s what’s going to happen.

Q. And with Mathews potentially out of tomorrow’s game does your game plan change at all? How does that make you guys feel?

AB de VILLIERS: We don’t plan like that, but all that will happen is we do plan for all 15 players to possibly play in tomorrow’s game. So we’ll just make that mind shift, if that does happen.

And that’s my responsibility as captain to make sure we are well prepared for every player that plays out there. If Angelo plays, obviously he’s a big figure in their side, and he’s a match-winner for them. So it will be a big loss for them to lose him. But if he does play, same thing applies for us, to make sure that we focus on what’s happening out there tomorrow and used plans that we’ve been working towards.

Q. No one said it at the time or before the series against England, but the fact that everyone played, were you using it very much even though it was a freestanding series, were you using it as preparation for this tournament as a sort of full-status warm up event, and do you feel like you’re peaking as well?

AB de VILLIERS: As difficult as it is for me to say, yes, it was definitely a warmup for us. But I hate to say that because I hate losing games of cricket as well.

So it was a bit of a Catch 22 to get that right message across to the boys. It was maybe a bit confusing at times. But if you do go into a series thinking that you want to play all 15 players, you’re not really focusing on just winning that series because your mind is a little bit elsewhere, so I think that’s what happened.

But also, like you said there, I think we peaked really well throughout that series, and ended up looking back thinking that, you know what, we actually could have won that series, easily, which is a great boost of confidence for us, keeping in mind that we played 15 players and it was a bit of a warmup for the Champions Trophy.

So yes, I think we are peaking at the right time. We had a fantastic time at that last ODI, and we feel confident going into this first one tomorrow.

Q. Angelo had said that Lakshan Sandakan, the chinaman spinner, is their main weapon for the game against South Africa. So what is your take on the chinaman spinner who played a few matches in South Africa a couple of months ago?

AB de VILLIERS: He’s a good player. He’s a good bowler. We played him very well in South Africa, and it was great for us to have a look at him because he’s got a bit of an odd action. He’s got some mystery balls — well, not mystery balls, but he turns it both ways.

So it was really good preparation for us to look at him. I think it would have been interesting to come here not having seen much of him and having to play him in the game first up. So we definitely have a bit of an advantage with that but still, he’s a really good bowler and he’s capable of taking wickets, and we’re well aware of that. Like I said, we have plans for every player on the team, and it’s up to us to be smart with those plans tomorrow.

Q. What’s it like to come back to the team as the captain? It’s one thing to come back in as a player, but if you’ve been on the sidelines for a bit and you come back as a captain, is that a difficult thing to do?

AB de VILLIERS: I won’t say so. It has its challenges, always, being captain of this team, in any of the formats. But I’ve done it for quite a while now in the specific formats. I feel pretty comfortable with that.

I’ve been well accepted by the side. There are not only one or two leaders on the team; we have got four or five really strong leaders, and we all have the right to have a voice at times and we all allow that as a leadership group.

I’ve never been a kind of leader to come in and to try and claim and my territory. I feel very comfortable when I come into the side and the culture that we’ve created allows me to come in and do my thing, and like I said, I’ve got great support in other leaders around me.

Q. And then just on the over rate problem that popped up in the first game, not just you, but other people’s responsibility, how do you go about managing that and do you think you’ve sorted it out now? It’s not going to come back and haunt you?

AB de VILLIERS: Yeah, it’s something we shouldn’t be talking about. So we are quite firm with that. We’ve pinpointed areas where we can get better at. I think we just learned the first ten-15 overs, where not a lot of fielding changes happen. So there’s no excuse to get behind the red in the first ten to 15 overs. Of course, the game is pretty slow then, anyway.

So we’ve targeted that as an area where we can make up time, get four, five minutes ahead of time, which it does get a bit complicated at the end when there’s a partnership going. The game slows down and it’s difficult to get the right fields at the right time.

It’s no excuse and it’s something we will get right in this tournament. It’s just non-negotiable.

Q. It seems you’ve got a big selection of allrounders there that you can pick from. What’s the thinking behind who you may play and is it a choice between an allrounder and an out-and-out quick like Morne Morkel? How are you balancing that bottom end of the team?

AB de VILLIERS: That is a difficult decision, especially for a game like tomorrow’s. We know that we have an opportunity and the ability to bowl the Sri Lankan side out. It’s a matter of getting that combination right and getting the right players on the park to do so. To me it’s really important to get your top three-four bowlers in there. Not that the allrounders can’t take wickets but I’ll probably be leaning towards getting your best bowlers in to make sure we have our best chance to bowl them out and to get ten wickets in the game.