On the eve of the third and final Test against India, South African skipper Faf du Plessis has urged his top-order to “bat big” like the hosts in order to salvage pride in Ranchi.
India has already clinched the three-Test series with two impressive wins and will be eyeing a whitewash in the final match starting on Saturday (October 19).
With 40 points to gain after the victory, the Proteas have more than just one reason to look forward to the game instead of giving up altogether, according to du Plessis.
“For me it’s important that the guys don’t feel like there is one week left in India and almost when you get on that plane to South Africa, the Test series we play now is for Test championship, there is points still up for grabs every Test match. So for me the challenge is more mental,” the South African skipper told reporters.
The South African batting order put up some fight in Visakhapatnam in the first Test only to get disappointed in Pune during the second Test.
India won both the matches by 203 runs and an innings and 137 runs respectively with the hosts dominating in all departments.
Urging his batsmen to convert their starts and take a leaf out of India’s batting book, Du Plessis said: “For all of us it is just about converting and I am not different to any one of those players when I get to 50, I want to get a hundred.”
“The fact that I have done it twice already this series, there is no reason for me not to go and get a big one. That’s a challenge for myself because I understand that sixties is not going to win Test matches for us. I need to bat big like the Indian team has done and score big runs,” he said.
Citing example of English skipper Joe Root, he said: “There are lot of good players who get a lot of fifties and there is a lot of chat about Joe Root getting fifties and stuff like that. I’m not different from any of these players.”
Du Plessis is leading a side in transition after Hashim Amla and Dale Steyn called it quits, and the skipper pointed out that South Africa were thrashed 3-0 in 2015-16 also, despite having a strong team with a record of 15 successive unbeaten series away from home.
“We came here last time with a very strong team as well, very experienced international team that did very well overseas, the best record abroad, and we still found it challenging,” he said.
“There’s an obvious reason that people who come to India find it tough to beat them at home. So it’s not all doom and gloom for me in that aspect. It’s about trying to improve as players,” he added.
The skipper pointed out the importance of fighting their way out to make up for the previous two losses.
He said, “It’s important for us to understand that we have to fight our way out of these last two losses. We can’t expect things just to happen. They won’t happen, because India is a very powerful team at the moment.”
Du Plessis also asked his bowlers to buck up as India lost only 16 wickets in two Tests, clearly reflecting their dominance.
“From the bowling point of view how can we get 20 wickets, we haven’t done that this series. If we do those things then we will compete with India. It is tough when we are losing. We are very competitive people so for us it does take a dent out of your confidence,” he said.
India recorded their 11th consecutive Test series win at home when they beat South Africa in Pune by an innings and 137 runs. The previous record was held jointly by India and Australia, with 10 successive home Test series wins.
No other team has more than eight home series victories in a row. The last time they lost a Test series at home was in December 2012 versus England.
“But the International sport is supposed to be hard. The guys who have stayed there at the top will tell you that it comes with ups and it comes with downs, personally and from a team point of view,” he said.
Having lost nine successive tosses in Asia, an exasperated Proteas captain won’t mind sending “someone else” in his place for the toss of the coin.
South Africa have struggled in Indian conditions and not winning the toss in the first two Tests has only made things tougher for them.
Opting to bat in Visakhapatnam and Pune, India put up 500-plus totals to virtually bat the visitors out of the game.
“We really want to make sure that we compete with this team in their own conditions. We have done it in stages in the first Test. So, hoping that we can start with the toss tomorrow,” he said.
“Probably we will change… send someone else to the toss tomorrow. I can give you that… because my records so far has not been great,” said du Plessis, in a lighter vein, on the eve of the game.
Du Plessis said “anything is possible” if his side get to bat first. “If you put big runs in the first innings, that’s where it need to stop. Then anything from there is possible. Hopefully, that will unfold in the next couple of days and hopefully we can put some runs on,” the skipper added.
“The pitch looks a little bit drier and crustier so first innings runs will be vital and then anything from there is possible in the second innings,” the South African opined.
South Africa’s job has got tougher with opener Aiden Markram ruled out after injuring his wrist while lashing out at a “solid object” in Pune, while left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj is also injured.
“Don’t want to give away too much. We are making a few changes to the side. The batting order will change,” he concluded.
(With inputs from agencies)