CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - South Africa are backing AB de Villiers to show his class and score heavily as he continues his return to the test arena, captain Faf du Plessis said ahead of their three-test series against India.
Former world No.1 batsman De Villiers took almost two years out of first-class cricket to concentrate on the shorter formats and spend more time with his young family. But the 33-year-old is now back for South Africa as they begin a busy home schedule with the opening test against India at Newlands on Friday.
“What’s important with AB is that he is fresh and hungry to score big runs. He has had a good break,” said Du Plessis on Thursday.
“He feels mentally strong and he wants to put in big performances, so I think that’s half the battle already. When you have a high-quality player like him, if you get the mental side of things right, he can be a good asset.”
De Villiers scored a quick-fire half century -- his 40th in test cricket -- on his test return in the brief Boxing Day test against Zimbabwe in Port Elizabeth last week, but this will be a much tougher examination.
“I don’t know when the next test series against India is, but it’s probably the last time a lot of us play against India and there’s no better way than playing a series in South Africa,” Du Plessis said of South Africa’s experienced line-up.
“We were disappointed the last time we went there and we’ve got a score to settle, so we’re excited for this series.”
South Africa lost three of their four tests in India in late 2016 in the last meeting between the two nations that top the International Cricket Council’s test rankings.
“It’s good that we can have some importance to this series. Big series are why you play. We don’t have an Ashes, so it’s good to see that India v South Africa can start becoming a really big series,” Du Plessis said.
“There are some really high-class players that are going to bash it out over the next four weeks.”
The three tests against Virat Kohli’s side in a busy January are followed by the another four home tests against Australia in March and April.
“The next two or three years are going to be very exciting for South African cricket. We are maturing a lot more - both the ODI team and test team,” their captain said.
“If you look at the names we have available this series, it’s a very strong team on paper. I’d like to look at it that, for the next three years, we can push really hard to get to No.1.”
Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by David Goodman