The Proteas will formally kick off a new era in South African cricket when they face West Indies in the first Betway Test at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Tuesday.
Temba Bavuma will take the reins for the first time as captain with Shukri Conrad heading the hosts as red-ball coach for the two-game sequence, the final assignment for the home side in their 2021-2023 World Test Championship (WTC) cycle.
The Proteas are fourth in those rankings having been in the top three for most of the competition, although they are now officially out of the running to reach the June final. Nonetheless, they still have plenty to look forward to under the new leadership group and plenty of new faces in a strong squad for the series.
“I think it’s exciting times for all the guys involved,” Bavuma told the media ahead of the game on Monday. “It’s the start of a new journey. We’d like to start with a clean slate and really go out there playing the way we want to play.
“I think you’re going to hear me saying that a lot, how we want to go about our business. That’s the exciting part. I’d like to see how it all looks like on the field of play. We come into the series against the West Indies wanting to win the series and that is what we’ll be aiming to do.”
The batting ranks have been bolstered by the return of Aiden Markram, Keegan Petersen and Ryan Rickelton, while Tony de Zorzi is also in the mix after an outstanding domestic season thus far. The bowling too has plenty of fresh options including the recalling of Senuran Muthusamy, Wiaan Mulder and the uncapped Gerald Coetzee.
“Looking at the squad of 15, we’ve got resources whether we decide to go with a pace attack, we have the guys to do that, we’ve got the opportunity as well to go with the spin attack with guys like Kesh (Keshav Maharaj) and (Simon) Harmer,” Bavuma explained. “We also have the opportunity as well to go maybe with an extra batter at number seven. That will still be decided by the coach. But I think we have enough resources to back up whatever tactic we decide on.”
South Africa fell out of the running due to disappointing batting displays on difficult tours to England and Australia during the past eight months and Bavuma said: “We know that we need to improve as a batting unit. We had two tough series previously against Australia and England, in my experience those are always tough tours to play in. They are tours that separate the good guys from the really good guys, so those matches came with challenges and we didn’t meet up to those challenges.
“That being said, the guys are still here. They still want to man up. We know as a batting team that we need to score the runs to give room to the bowlers to do what they need to do. Those conversations have happened with the guys from a personal point of view and we believe we’ve dealt with it as a team.
“Hopefully here with the West Indies the guys will go out and show what they need to do from a team point of view.”
Assessing the West Indies, who have never won a series in South Africa and only once beat the hosts back in 2007, Bavuma feels they will still test the Proteas significantly.
“Looking at West Indies over the last while, they play old-fashioned cricket,” the captain added. “Batters grind it out and bowlers are looking to hit their areas outside that off stump. They have got guys who can stand up to the challenge and they are well led by Kraigg Brathwaite.
“I think we’ve prepared as best as we can to play them like we would have done against any other team. They have good bowlers who can get the ball through nicely and that’s what you need in a country like South Africa. So we know we have our work cut out and we look forward to the challenge that awaits.”
Play in both matches is scheduled to begin at 10h00 on each day.
Proteas Test squad against West Indies
Temba Bavuma (captain, DP World Lions), Gerald Coetzee (ITEC Knights), Tony de Zorzi (Six Gun Grill Western Province), Dean Elgar (Momentum Multiply Titans), Simon Harmer (Momentum Multiply Titans), Marco Jansen (Dafabet Warriors), Heinrich Klaasen (Momentum Multiply Titans), Keshav Maharaj (Hollywoodbets Dolphins), Aiden Markram (Momentum Multiply Titans), Wiaan Mulder (DP World Lions), Senuran Muthusamy (North West Dragons), Anrich Nortje (Dafabet Warriors), Keegan Petersen (Hollywoodbets Dolphins), Kagiso Rabada (DP World Lions), Ryan Rickelton (DP World Lions).
South Africa Betway Test Series against West Indies
28 February – 04 March at 10:00
South Africa vs West Indies – SuperSport Park, Centurion
08 – 12 March at 10:00
South Africa vs West Indies – DP World Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg