Pakistan in SA
AB happy behind the stumps
Bloemfontein - One-day captain AB de Villiers feels he is now equally comfortable in his role of batsman and wicketkeeper, he said in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
"Cricket-wise I’m where I want to be - I’m comfortable with batting and very comfortable behind the stumps," De Villiers said on the eve of the first of five one-day internationals against Pakistan.
"Being in control of the over-rate though has been an issue in the past, and I feel more in control when I’ve got the gloves. I can move through the overs and the boys will follow my pattern."
De Villiers wanted to use the January one-day series against the Black Caps as an opportunity to hone his captaincy skills but he was suspended after the first ODI for the team’s slow over rate.
The Proteas went on to lose the series 2-1 and had since analysed their mistakes and De Villiers was confident they were back on the right track.
"We always reflect after a series, the things we did well and things we didn’t do too well, and there was lots of room for improvement after the New Zealand series," De Villiers said.
"There were glimpses of good cricket from us - Faf du Plessis did well as captain coming in out of nowhere and being put under pressure.
"That last ODI win was really important for us as a unit, but we certainly needed to improve and we’ve worked hard to cover all the bases over the last three days."
Taking over the captaincy in the 50-over format and being successful at it did not happen overnight and De Villiers felt he still needed time to settle into the role.
"I didn’t have much opportunity during the New Zealand series to learn from my mistakes and I’ll never be a guy who says I’m on top of it as I still have a lot to learn."
While he was still finding his feet, De Villiers said having the backing of the team was the most important thing for him and he just needed time to find his own rhythm and style of captaincy.
Despite the team’s confidence in their own ability, De Villiers said they recognised Pakistan as a very good one-day unit and they expected a hard-fought competition.
"They’ve brought back a few old faces and have a lot of experience in their side," he said.
"We’re not underestimating Pakistan but we’re also a very good ODI team and we should do well in this series."
The Proteas were not unduly worried about facing the highly-rated spin bowling attack, De Villiers said, as they had learnt to play spin very well over the last five years.
"It started when we toured India back in 2008 and everyone was talking about how weak we were against spin, so we studied it really well.
"Since then we‘ve improved a lot but we know they have some of the best spinners in the shorter versions of the game, so we will have our hands full.
"We’re in our home conditions though, and we know the wicket suits seam bowling more so we’re very confident we can handle their bowlers."
In the first match, the Proteas would be without Dale Steyn, who was being rested, while Morne Morkel was unlikely to be declared fit due to a hamstring injury.
"This is our strongest side - bar Steyn and Morkel - and we need to start bringing out the performances now," De Villiers said.
"We need to start winning ODIs before the Champions Trophy in June, otherwise we’ll go to the UK without any confidence.
"Our journey starts tomorrow in Bloemfontein and I’m looking forward to a very challenging series."
Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq, meanwhile, denied any rumours of a split in the Pakistani camp and the reported rift between himself and Mohammad Hafeez.
"It is nonsense and the people who started the rumours should be ashamed of themselves," he said.
"We are like a family and we play cricket like a family and only yesterday we were laughing over a cup of tea together."