Aware of the threat India possess in home conditions, South Africa pacer Vernon Philander is geared up ahead of the first Test starting Tuesday and hopes his team lands the first blow in the two-match series.
South Africa last won a Test series in India back in the year 2000, and the last time they were here in 2015, they lost the four-Test series 0-3, with the second Test in Bangalore washed out. With stalwarts such as Dale Steyn and Hashim Amla retired, Philander, one of the senior men in the team, is expected to take charge.
“Spotlight will be on a lot of big players to make a statement. Our job is to come here and give the first punch as India is obviously expected to do well. We are known as a team who starts slow so this time around, we have to start well. There is a lot of pressure on players [but then] it’s international cricket and you want to keep it that way,” Philander said while speaking to ICC.
“We are obviously prepared to do well. When we do well, it gives you that better confidence and I’ll take that confidence with me. It’s been a long winter for me and I am feeling in really good nick.”
Philander, since his debut in 2011, has picked up 214 wickets at a wonderful average of 21.64, although his role will not be limited to just bowling. The allrounder came up with a fine performance for South Africa in the three-day warm-up against Board President’s XI, scoring 48 at better than a run a ball and returning 2/27, including dismissing Rohit Sharma for a two-ball duck.
Philander, 34, is aware of the challenges for a non-sub-continent fast bowler in India, and the allrounder did not waste time to get his preparations underway.
“It’s always good to have some time out in the middle. Fortunately for me, I came here a couple of days earlier to join the A side… to get a bit of a game time.” he said. “Mainly it’s just about getting a feel for the wickets. It is going to be a tough series, obviously, so the more time you spend out there in the middle, the better.”
While South Africa are yet to play a game under the World Test Championship, India, with a 2-0 win over the West Indies in the Caribbean are leading the WTC table with 120 points, followed by New Zealand and Sri Lanka at 60 points each and Australia and England at 56. Playing against India at home isn’t quite the easiest of starts for South Africa but Philander believes it’s always good to begin with a stiff series and lay the foundation.
“For South Africa, It’s a tough start… playing India in India but I don’t think the South Africans would have wanted it any other way… take the big dogs in their home ground,” Philander said. “All of us are looking forward to this challenge and there are a lot of player-to-player challenges as well. Can’t wait to get going.
“We have lost some senior players and there are new players coming in and we want them to learn quickly. Hopefully we can use the experience of the senior players that are still around and mold this into a good Test side for the years to come. That’s the most important part, to lay a good foundation for players to take forward.”